The real-life tales of a football writer
This job is seldom dull. Here’s some of the communications I’ve had in the last 24 hours. 1) A phone call from a British lad in a Greek prison serving 14 years for allegedly drug running. He’s a Manchester United fan and wants me to send him some posters for his cell. Like I have posters of United players. 2) A call to say that ‘Mad For It’ is now number one in Amazon’s football best-sellers chart. I celebrated by making a brew and turning my office fan up from ‘1’ to ‘2’ to stop me dying in the Spanish heat. I’ve been promoting the book all week, doing interviews with media outlets as diverse as The Jewish Telegraph and TalkSport.3) News from a friend about her first date with a boy recently. “We went to a bar and both went to the toilet at the same time,” she said. “But he came back ages after me which is unusual for a lad. After finally returning, he apologised and told me that he’d really needed a *** but that there wasn’t any toilet paper. So he used his vest instead.” They’ve not seen each other since. 4) A call to from the editor of a Surf/Style magazine commissioning a 4,000-word essay on the hero that is Eric Cantona. Turns out that the said editor was born in the same Brazilian city as my girlfriend. He wants the piece to have “an element of overwrought grandeur.”5) A phone call from the former Manchester United and England defender Paul Parker. He’s in Barcelona in a few days and his son wants to visit the Camp Nou.
“Why don’t you take him then?” I asked.
“Because the place still gives me nightmares,” he replied. “I don’t ever want to go there again in my life after that night.”
Parker played against Stoichkov and Romario when Barca battered United 4-0 in November 1994 in front of 114,500. I know where he’s coming from. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as down after a football match as that one.
Parker (2nd left) and United feel Barca's wrath in 1994
6) An email from a journalist who is two days into a three-week stint in Beijing. He said that the humidity and heat is killing him… and he’s not an athlete.7) A surprise visit – the son of the journalist in Beijing. He’s a student at one of Britain’s best universities and is keen on a girl in Malaga. So he booked a flight from London to Barcelona... which is 1000 kilometres away.
Realising his mistake, he asked to stay the night. There are regular flights between London and Malaga, Spain’s third biggest airport. The visitor stayed and, upon realising that the train took 10 hours, booked another flight to Malaga a day later.8) A plea from a Manchester La Fianna player for another chance this season. He received two red cards in two games last season and I told him he wouldn’t play for us again. He’s a good player, but I’ve been adamant... but not as adamant as he is persistent, which I respect. We need to sit down and talk.9) A call to say that a football club who start with ‘Man’ and doesn’t end with ‘ity’ have been watching my 13-year-old brother. I’m not allowed to tell him.10) A call from a Rangers fan who watches his team home and away. He was so despondent about his team’s fortunes that I felt like passing him on to the Samaritans.11) A link to Royal Antwerp fans at Bristol City singing “Let’s Go F*cking Mental.”
Antwerp have a link with Manchester United and I’ve been over several times. On each occasion, Paul Bisteaux, the Antwerp secretary, has taken me for several strong Belgian beers in a bar where all the fans drink.
I couldn’t quite see that happening in the Premier League.
Those fans were amazing. I watched Cardiff City Vs Ajax last friday and i must say they were just as entertaining!
Will Paul ever confront his fears? I've been and it's a good tour.
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