The real-life tales of a football writer
It’s 5am in Yokohama. I arrived in Japan’s second biggest city of four million yesterday morning and now I’m up early, jet-lagged and unable to sleep.
The view from my waterfront hotel room over Japan’s biggest port is superb. The Manchester United players arrived yesterday and are staying next door. It’s no youth hostel. If I was paparazzi I’d train a long lens on one of the players relaxing on their rooms about 100 metres away.
It would capture Paul Scholes up early reading The Oldham Chronicle and Ji Sung Park playing darts with a temporary dartboard he brought over in his rucksack.
"They call me Ji-Sung 'One Dart' Park..."
I left Barcelona on Sunday morning after covering El Clasico on Saturday night. Good game, a real war of attrition between old foes. Six friends came to Barcelona and I managed to get all of them tickets outside the ground for more or less face value. Which is about £100 in these days of the pound being worth less than a grain of rice.The heavy rain unleashed on Barcelona before kick-off helped kill the ticket market for a game in a stadium which is largely uncovered. Catalans don’t do rain. Mancunians are lost without it.
After a few hours sleep I flew to Helsinki, before boarding a Finnair plane to Tokyo on Sunday night. Despite United’s first game of the World Club Championship being on Thursday, there were a few other United fans and journalists on the 10-hour flight.
I didn’t sleep for a minute and was feeling like a zombie as I caught the Narita Express train to Yokohama. Tokyo’s main international airport is so far from the urban centre it serves it may as well be in Stoke.
The team arrived shortly after to a warm reception – though nothing on the Beckham-mania of past pre-season tours. I don’t think we’ll ever see another footballer feted in Asia as much as David Beckham.
I was last in Tokyo in 2005. Much has changed. Then, the pound was worth something and prices were similar to the UK. It has halved in value against the Yen this year alone so last night I paid £9 for a sandwich in Subway. Breakfast in my hotel costs £24. Half a pound of sprouts will be about £327.
If anyone knows of any decent soup kitchens here then let me know.
In 2005 I was in between relationships and single. I was out most nights, living the life in the nightlife district of Roppongi. I woke up one morning in the hotel where ‘Lost in Translation’ was filmed. She was from London. Her room was so big it took me about half an hour to walk to the bathroom in the morning.
"Room with a view Mr Mitten? That will be one arm and both legs please..."
The shower room was the size of the old East Terrace at The Valley and once I’d found my way out of it I had to scarper for an interview with United chief executive David Gill on the other side of Tokyo. Which is no small feat as it’s the biggest city in the world.
I’ve got a lot of writing to do ahead of United’s first game against Gamba Osaka, covering the tournament for a number of publications and making a video diary for Channel M.
Right, I’m starving and going to get some breakfast. But first I’ll need a loan from a bank.
What do you mean, they’ve all gone bust?
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i looked into going actually, but it was far too dear for me. looking at the pictures though, im extremely jealous. Have a good one.
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