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Fenton’s World Cup Blog: 40 days and 40 nights

Pundit Arena is proud to announce that our very own James Fenton will be blogging his way to the World Cup this summer.  Here’s the first of his blog entries.

That’s all that’s left. It’s actually 38 days but this fact wouldn’t have lent itself to as catchy a title.

Sunday marked six weeks before I gather up my belongings here in Daegu and embark on my 36-hour journey to Salvador, Brazil.

The first part of my journey will see me venture from Incheon, Korea to Frankfurt, Germany. As it’s World Cup season and all roads lead to Brazil, I’m hoping to pick up some excitable Koreans and Germans along the way to entertain me on my journey. An Irish ‘Pied Piper’ of sorts, only slightly more stand-offish and less creepy than the original one.

I will be joined at the World Cup by around 20 of Daegu’s finest and not-so-fine English teachers, most of whom I know through my modest career as an FC Daegu footballer/groupie. That’s an amateur foreigner football team in Daegu, South Korea, for those of you not in the know, and the most handsome one in Asia at that.

Just yesterday, myself and Gary ‘Celtic Goose’ Crawford managed to finally secure our accommodation at a quaint little villa on the outskirts of Salvador.

Gary convinced me it was the place to be by telling me it’s near the airport. So for any of you familiar with Dublin it’s the equivalent of traveling to the Emerald Isle and getting your groove on in ‘Coppers’ for 21 nights in a row while taking up residence in Swords. Still though, a place to lay our hats is all we need and I’d happily lay my hat in Swords.

Gary used his computer to communicate with the owner of the villa via email and Bob was his uncle. There are pictures of our residence on the internet which means it must be good.

As far as match tickets are concerned, I will be attending the France vs Switzerland Group E game on June 20th. Hopefully France will already be in the midst of their biennial self-destruct mission. I’ve long since forgiven Thierry Henry for his handball in 2009 but nonetheless I intend to ruffle a few feathers among the French just for the sake of it.

Five days later I will take in the much-anticipated Group F game involving the heavyweights of Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina. My knowledge of neither country stretches very far so intense Googling will be at the forefront of my agenda on the eve of this encounter if I plan on striking up any kind of half-time conversation.

Taking in the FIFA fanzones is another thing I’m very much looking forward to. I’m picturing a kind of mish-mash between a crowded pub on the day of a big match and a music festival where the wait for drinks and toilets will be be almost as long as the games themselves meaning any kind of significant action will go unnoticed as we wait patiently for our over-priced half-pints of slop produced by whatever major corporation it is that’s sponsoring the event.

Wading back through the crowds, two plastic cups in each hand, fingers dipping into the froth so as to enhance our grip. Arms raised and ice-cold liquid from the cups dripping slowly down our hands, past our elbows and towards our pits as we wish we could stop just for a second to wipe our sweat-strewn brows and scratch our noses that only ever seem to itch at exactly these kinds of moments.

Until we finally catch sight of our friends who were minding our seats (condensed area next to some heavy-set Dutch blokes sporting orange headdresses) and hand over the beverages they asked for 35 minutes previously before they jovially announce that they’ve no cash and will get the next ones in. We tell them it’s fine while mentally taking note that we must punish them severely later on.

All this before finally returning our focus on to whatever match is on the big screen while we provide running commentary to our unfortunate mate who has somehow managed to get himself wedged in the crowd at a 180 degree angle the from the action. Then the half -time whistle goes and the rush for the bar and toilets begins once again.

The FIFA World Cup. Where dreams are made. Bring it on!

James Fenton, Pundit Arena.

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