Like the England team, the Icons boys travelled in hope, rather than expectation.
Arriving on a glorious Cape Town morning we stepped out of our taxi outside the hotel and literally bumped into Cafu coming out of the revolving doors. Perhaps everyone else in the hotel was a World Cup winner? Almost true. We discovered we were in the main hotel of the Brazilian travelling support so basically they were all winners. They had booked for a month, of course, fully expecting to be involved right to the end. We are due to fly back after the quarter-final.
Icons' view from their hotel window
We picked up our tickets, got giddily excited and watched the World Cup come alive on TV.
We all enjoyed the Germans miss penalties and lose to the Serbs before heading out for a beer by the marina and watched the US Slovenia game. We met Raphael and Gill, a half Greek, half South African man and his half Portuguese, half South African girlfriend, who, having lived in London for ten years, were both supporting England for the night. Nice to have such choices as to who you can follow.
Next to us at the bar, a man dressed in chain mail and a crown and brandishing an inflatable sword, was asked in a terribly posh voice: “Excuse me my man, what King actually are you?” “Richard the First,” came the reply. “Thought so, thought so,” said London mayor Boris Johnson as he turned back to his group. It was shaping up to be a surreal day. Here’s the photo of us all to prove it.
Icons meet Boris Johnson, and the King
Boris, parping away on his big red vuvuzela, and the rest of the English supporters were in good spirits on the way to the stadium. Everyone was friendly, enjoying the atmosphere as the sun set and Table Mountain descended into darkness.
A very cosmopolitan crowd with a wide mix of nations were all serenaded to the tune of “We’re England til we die”. The stadium looked iconic on the outside and breathtaking on the inside. I’d say 80% were English supporters, the rest neutrals with a few vocal Algerians dotted around. A refreshing amount of women, children and non-white people in white added to the carnival atmosphere, as did the amount of flags draped on every bit of the stadium. Shame the vuvuzelas drowned out the singing.
(Interesting point for those back home watching on TV, I’d say 1 in 200 had a vuvuzela, so you only need 3000 of them to create the beehive backing music to this World Cup)
We were sat close to the corner flag, 4 rows away from Andy ‘Andrew’ Cole and 8 rows from the Heskey family. We all hoped he had a good game.
And then the game started and the magnificent day went downhill.
I won’t dwell on the game, you all saw it and can make your own minds up. I thought it was extremely harsh to boo them off at half time, it didn’t help and we played reasonably well in the first 45 and the Algerians looked neat and tidy.
In the second half we just didn’t have another gear. We appeared to not be able to cross the ball, and looked by the number of short free-kicks, to not be able to take a set piece. Close to the action it was painfully obvious that we pass and stand, rather than pass and move. Everyone watched the man in possession do something and then reacted, rather than moving to receive the ball.
England’s tactics – pass and stand, pass and stand
Rooney’s body-language and subsequently his language were terrible. It was as if they all knew they were going to be hammered and their shoulders slumped at their powerlessness to control events, and the football.
At the end the boos rained down and they/we trudged off. We worked out that the last time England played well in a World Cup was the first 30 minutes against Denmark in 2002. We stank out the last tournament, and we’re stinking out this one. Oh dear.
Tom ‘glass half full’ Rollett pointed out that we were still unbeaten and that we started Italia 90 with two draws. I pointed out that in 1990 we had just seen the emergence of Gazza as a world-class genius and we only went on to beat Egypt, Belgium and Cameroon by one goal – and that was the greatest team of our lifetime.
Afterwards the Algerians celebrated winning 0-0, but to be fair the English fans did chat, “we’re shit and we know we are” back at them. Boris’ verdict: “Not very good, was it?” Fair point.
Algerians celebrated winning 0-0
So all in all one of the greatest days of my life was not entirely ruined by the football. If only we were like Gill and Raphael and we could easily switch allegiances. Unfortunately we’re stuck with this; we’re England till we die.