The real-life tales of a football writer
I’m going flat out. It’s always like this before the World Cup finals, with magazines and papers wanting player interviews and features.
Daniel Alves was one such player and I visited him in his office – yes, he has an office with all his medals and shirts which he has swapped stacked neatly in cabinets – with Sid Lowe from the Guardian.
Sid travelled from Madrid on the super fast AVE train and wore his best clothes in a bid to impress Dani, who he rates as better than Pele and Cruyff put together. I sat between the two to prevent any kind of advance from Sid.
Alves was superb and will be in the next FourFourTwo. One hour 20 minutes of opinion (about 5,000 words to transcribe) and absolute determination.
Sid and Dani - it must be love...
You can see clearly why he has reached the top. He is focussed, confident and surprisingly bright. He knew what he wanted when he was 15 year old schoolboy in Brazil and went for it with single-minded concentration until he reached that level.
He’s taking two English classes a week and so when the interview was over, I gave him a little quiz in English. One question was, ‘Which is your favourite English football team?"
“Manchester,” he replied. Even that answer could not dampen Sid’s admiration.
A day later, I had a beer with Ian Hawkey, to celebrate his book on African football winning the football book of the year award in London a day earlier.
Actually, it was joint first with Philippe Auclair’s biography of Eric Cantona – who was back in Barcelona for filming last week. He lived in the city for three years after leaving Old Trafford, when he didn’t see it snow as it did a week last Sunday.
Barcelona was covered in white for the first time in 25 years – an opportunity the Madrid press would have made more of had they not been busy jerking each others’ knees and demanding that Madrid start sacking their coach once a month because eight times in six years isn’t enough.
"Step into my office..."
On Saturday I watched the mighty Manchester La Fianna beat West Ham of Barcelona 2-0.
The team I started in 2006, and played with until the start of this season, are top of the Barcelona International Football League and are chasing a first ever title after three top four finishes.
A Scot, Steve Love, is doing a fine job managing the team. His commitment is incredible - he has tactical meetings and makes notes throughout training and matches. That’s on top of two training sessions a week and a match.
The three top scorers make an interesting comparison. One is a male model, another an agent who looks after several Premier League players and the other – now also an agent - played for Belgium up to U18 level and spent six years with Anderlecht.
The fourth top scorer is a Frenchman from the Alps who was banned from skiing for a year after causing an avalanche! We’ve got a Chilean who works in nightclubs until 9am and then plays, plus four Mancunians – one of whom gets man of the match week after week.
They are a great set of lads from all around the world and they asked me to be club president in September.
How could I refuse? The role involves them asking me to buy them new kit and them shouting ‘Presidente! Presidente!’ when I appear at games.
King Eric catches up with Andy and Philippe in Barcelona
Given my work and travel, that’s around once a month. Those shouts cause onlookers to look over expecting to see Chavez or Castro and then wondering who the hell I am.
After that, I watched Chelsea beat West Ham with six lifelong Chelsea fans who have lived in Barcelona for years. They still get to matches, but were home and away in the 80s and reminisce about trips watching Chelsea in the second division. They watch games in a Barca fans’ bar in a working class barrio - it’s mad how the world is changing.
The relationship between United and Chelsea fans (proper fans rather than the millions of glory hunting clowns who have latched onto both clubs) is interesting. There were no problems between the fans in Moscow two years ago, more a respect that we’d both reached the final of the European Cup and were determined to enjoy it.
After watching United v Fulham on Sunday, I went to Camp Nou to see Barca beat Valencia 3-0. Or rather, Messi beat Valencia 3-0. He was incredible again and if he keeps working hard, people will be talking about him in the same breath as Wayne Rooney.
Then, after covering Barca v Stuttgart, I’ll fly back to Manchester to watch the White Pele against Liverpool on Sunday.
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