Posted: 7/26/2018


        After the massive disappointments of previous World Cups and European Championships we were not expecting much from the young squad of Three Lions in Russia this summer, and what a pleasant surprise as they went as far as the semi-finals under Gareth Southgate.

        The news that his salary has been almost doubled to £ 5 million a year raised objections from Tracey Neville, coach of the England netball team that beat Australia in a thrilling final at the Commonwealth Games on The Gold Coast. She evidently earns much less, about £800.00 A MONTH. She is the brother of Phil Neville the England womens football coach, a short step away from reaching the FIFA 2019 Women's World Cup finals in France next June and Gary Neville the best pundit on the air on British TV, and both former star players at Manchester United.

        Netball is a strange sport compared with much more popular basketball, but popular mostly in Commonwealth countries and mostly female teams. When players have the ball they can either pass, or shoot, but not run with it, unlike the more free flowing basketball. Played very well it can be flowing and exciting. There is a British League and its on TV with some sponsorship but not a massive following unlike basketball (but not in UK) and football.

        I had the joy of being in Spartak Stadium when England made life difficult for themselves to beat Colombia on pks then top Sweden 2-0 in the quarters before losing to Croatia in the semi-final. They actually won 4 matches (one by pks) and lost 3, including twice to Belgium in the group stage and in the 3rd place match. Wins over lowly Panama and Tunisia in Nizhny Novgorod and Volgograd. were expected from them but the whole campaign was a success with the nation getting behind them in Russia, and in pubs, fan zones and elsewhere nation wide.

        It was expensive for fans of all nations to travel to and around the Western part of Russia, to pay for tickets and accommodation, although the FIFA FAN ID was a great idea and asset. No visas were required and it gave free transport on trains, metros and buses and identified fans. I didnt go East of Moscow but how many of you can claim to have watched a match as far East as the Trud Stadium in Irkutsk, Siberia as I did in 1964 ,54 years ago on my way via 11 time zones from Helsinki to the Pacific, then a 3 day boat to Yokahama, and then hitch hiking to Tokyo for the 1964 Olympic second after Rome 1960.

      I did manage to keep expenses down getting to Moscow, via Chisinau on Air Moldova and returning cheap on Belavia Airlines to Minsk, Belarus for Euro 85, then Ecolines luxury bus Minsk to Vilnius, Lithuania for Euro11 and finally Vilnius to Leeds for Euro 22 on RyanAir.

       Next week I will fly to Nantes in Brittany. my first timein that city since 1998 and USA v Yugoslavia, and then by rail onto the 4 small cities in that area of France for the FIFA u20 Womens World Cup. Defending champions are North Korea who play England in the first match in Dinan. Later the Three Lionesses will face Brazil and Mexico. USA open against Japan, then Paraguay and Spain.  Other teams include France, Netherlands, Ghana, Nigeria, Germany, Haiti, China, New Zealand. The final will be in Stade de Rabine in Vannes, Brittany on 24th August. Group stage matches are double headers with ticket prices starting at just Euro10.