Well, it’s nearly September, indeed, it’s only forty minutes away as I type here in Mumbai. I’ve managed to somehow get out of updating my blog over the past few weeks, and again (I seem to do this a lot) I apologise for that. Have things been busy enough for me to excuse it… probably not, but ah well.
As I write this, I am in a frightful need of packing for a two week jaunt to Europe, which, as you should know by now, includes football… so let us start with the important stuff first… World Cup Qualification. On Saturday this week, I’ll be in Poland, watching Poland v NI in our third from last qualification match. If we lose, I think it’s fair to say we’re pretty much out. A draw and we’re game on, although it’ll be tough… although Poland would be effectively out by my sums, and predictions. A win however, and this is the problem as we’ve not really won a big game away from home in a long, long time, and we’re in a sudden, powerful position. Will we win?? Hard to say, and watching NI for about 20 years now, and 13 very regularly, you daren’t breathe optimism, because we have a fantastic ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!! Remember it’s the hope that kills you, but suddenly, there’s a wee inkling of hope out there.
The other aspect to Poland away, is the possibility of trouble. When Poland visited Belfast in the first half of this year, dozens of Polish hooligans travelled to Belfast, with the intention of causing trouble. They did it, to be fair, pretty effectively. There were scenes in Belfast not seen in years, possibly decades. They even managed, to get hold of a flag which represents an Irish Republican grouping who’d been responsible for shooting a Polish man in Antrim a few weeks earlier and wave it in the ‘away’ end of the stadium… irony anyone??
The consequence however, was that Poles living in Northern Ireland, who had nothing to do with the trouble, suffered intolerance and ignorance. Those stories filter through to Poland, and retribution is a distinct possibility. I’m not naive enough to be blind to the possibility, however, until Sunday I wasn’t terribly concerned. I know that the Polish Police, who to be fair have a good deal of experience at dealing with Polish hooliganism (there’s lots of it), have been working hard with NI supporter groups, and the PSNI to make lots of arrangements. We’ll have a ‘fanzone’ all to ourselves. We’ll be in the ground early, and we’ll stay late, to ensure the local bizzies have enough time to clear the streets. We’ll be bussed in & out of the stadium.
However, all that seems to have been undone by one prat working at the Sunday Life. Ciaran Barnes claims to have travelled to Poland & sought out local Hooligan groups who are apparently looking to “kill” NI supporters. Firstly, what an irresponsible piece of hack journalism… the Poles were probably aware we were coming, but did they really care?? Really?? Today however, psyched by a bit of air time, they might. Barnes has probably created a piece of ‘self-fulfilling prophesy’ for himself too… he’ll get to say “I told you so” if there is trouble, or “I advised you to keep safe” if there isn’t.
The Editor, of course, should have spotted this nonsense and knocked it on the head… not only because it’s terrible to be worrying people like this – people like me who know what way the world lies in European Football – but also by spotting a number of idiotic errors in the article. People are staying in Berlin, because the game was originally due to be played close to the German / Polish border… indeed, I’m even flying into Berlin & hiring a car with a mate to drive the 300 odd kilometres to the city we’re staying in!!
What I would like to say, to my family & friends is that I’ll be careful, I’ll be with friends & I won’t be wandering anywhere on my own. This will be a real, ‘in-out’ job, which is a real pity as I loved Warsaw the first time I visited Poland. The people were lovely to us, despite not having much possessions or English.
As well as dodging trouble, I’ll be back in NI for the penultimate game of the Qualification against Slovakia in Belfast. Slovakia are currently winning the group, but if we beat them, we’ll do ourselves no harm… again, the usual proviso’s of watching NI apply (i.e. expect the unexpected & hope for nothing other than to be surprised!!). Slovakia were awful when we played them in Bratislava last year, however, we managed to be even worse for the first hour & lost out in the end… here’s hoping for better in Belfast!!
Aside from the usual in Mumbai, and Delhi, the past few weeks have had a few highlights… firstly, I managed to catch acute pharyngitis and tonsillitis with a fever. I had the doctor call with me in the hotel, and not only was his doctor’s manner excellent, he carried a raft of drugs in his doctor’s bag & dealt me immediately!! And when I say dealt, I mean dealt… five types of tablet and a tonic to gargle!! To be fair to the fellow, they worked a treat!! I was fighting fit within a few days!!
I’ve also managed to order myself a ‘netbook’, which in layman’s terms is a small laptop. The Samsung NC10 is highly recommended by the people I trust. My reasoning for this purchase, is that my current laptop, a trendy and highly media friendly HP Pavilion dv9000, whilst still in great nicker for a 3 year old laptop, is a beast 17” screen, and not really that portable. The NC10, will give me real convenience when I travel… and lets face it, I travel quite a bit!! So I’ll be quite excited when I collect on Wednesday in London!!
And speaking of travel, I very nearly made it to the Maldives this Bank Holiday weekend… I found a deal on Sri Lankan Airways from Mumbai to Male (capital of Maldives) for about £220… but unfortunately, the forecast was for torrential rain during the weekend… small matter of the Maldives’ Monsoon apparently… So I stayed in the City here… but the time wasn’t wasted. Anne-Laure, a French girl who lived in Powai near me, had her last weekend in the City. We had a dinner prepared by her & her boyfriend Loic, and then we had some Paintballing!! Now, when I did this before, in NI, the pellets hurt… in Mumbai, they didn’t. I’m reckoning that it’s to do with the temperature softening the pellets. Anyways, team Red, won all four games we played!! So whoo!! The weather did however, prevent us from completing the Karting, but I’m not so worried by that.
So all good… but I’m quite looking forward now to my jaunt home. Simple things, like fish & chips… finished pavements & of course family time are now on the horizon & I’m quite happy to be so close to seeing them again.
But before I finish, a quick word for Mum & Dad… 34 years married by my count this week. I hope you had a great Anniversary weekend together, and remember, Mark & I love you both very much.