In 1990 I was at the FIFA World Cup in Italy where they used 12 stadiums for matches, and today only 2 of them are being cleared by the latest Italian government to allow spectators in this coming weekend. Four of them will allow home supporters only and the rest will have matches behind close doors.
Three days after Berlin last summer I was in Venice, and told you about the little stadium there, Stadio Pierluigi Penzo where you have to go by vaporetto-water bus, and is almost surrounded by water. It was COMPLETELY covered in graffiti, and no signeage and the path around it was about 10 feet wide, and a very narrow bridge across a canal. You can imagine the mayham when rival fans get angry. Even the Guiseppe Meazza-San Siro in Milan won't be allowed to take fans until security is improved and tickets have to be electronically inserted at the turnstiles. 160 new turnstiles have to be installed, along with 600 meters of new fencing. and much more. It was here that I had two memorable WC 1990 experiences. The first was at the Opening Ceremony and match between holders Argentina, and Cameroons who beat them 1-0, and dancing in the aisles with the 'Indominable Lions' fans. The second was a later match between West Germany and UAE-United Arab Emirates. There was a torrential downpour, the roof leaked and the FIFA executive were soaked, as were their prawn sandwiches. Recently in the stadium the thugs managed to 'smuggle in' a motor scooter and throw it from an upper tier onto fans below. What security? At the tragedy last week in Sicily, there were about 500 Catania fans who had ignored 'banning orders' waiting outside the Stadio Angelo Massimino for visiting fans who, in a police convoy, didn't arrive until half-time.
It was a charm offensive at Anfield, Liverpool when George Gillette and Tom Hicks oozed platitudes about the history and achievements of 'The Reds' Franchise, and promised to start work on the new stadium in Stanley Park in the next few weeks. They know a bit about great stadiums, from the Bell Center in Montreal, to The Ball Park in Arlington-Ameriquest Field, The American Airlines Center in Dallas, the Resistol Rodeo Arena in Mesquite and the Dr Pepper/7 Up Ball Park for minor league ball in Frisco. The rodeo arena is now air conditioned, and I much prefer the West Texas country rodeos sitting on wooden planks or leaning on the fence watching raging bulls and brave bull riders spit out their tobacco and sometimes their teeth in 8 seconds of explosive action.
At Queens Park Rangers training ground in West London the Chinese TV cameras were shooting a 'friendly' between QPR and the Chinese U 21 Olympic team, who have been training with Chelsea FC for a couple of weeks. Suddenly a brawl erupted with Gao Lin kung-fuing an opponent, the benches emptied and one Chinese player Zheng Tao was knocked unconcious for 5 minutes and is now in a local hospital with a fractured jaw. FIFA and EPL referee Dermott Gallagher abandoned the match and walked off. Today, 7 Chinese players were flown home and QPR and the police are opening an enquiry. On a Chinese website, www.sina.com a fan. Li Chengpeng, wondered why hadn't Gao Lin acted like Cristiano Ronaldo and taken a dive and rolled around instead.
On Tuesday FOUR international matches were played in London: Portugal 2 vs Brazil 0 at The Emirates, Australia 1vs Denmark 3 at QPR-Loftus Road, Nigeria 1 vs Ghana 4 at Griffin Park, Brentford and Greece 0 vs South Korea 1 at Craven Cottage, Fulham. The next day England were pathetic in a 0-1 home loss to Spain at Old Trafford, and USA spanked Mexico yet again 2-0 and the TriColor showed off the result of bad parenting south of the border by refusing to shake hands and exchange jerseys after the match in Phoenix, AZ , So, whats new?