Donetsk: England Vs France
Another two years have rolled by and its time for tournament football again. There has been a lot of hype around the tournament being staged in Ukraine & Poland. Aside from the Panarama documentary and Sky News special report the papers have been filled with the usual pre tournament scare stories. Hooligans, racism, high price hotels & flights genuinely seem to have put fans off travelling in the post crunch era.
We genuinely didn’t know what to expect about Ukraine. Information isn’t the easiest to come by as there is no tourist office in the UK. LondonEnglandFans forums & the lonely planet was enough to wet the appetite for a trip behind the Iron Curtain and flights for 145 bucks seemed more than reasonable.
After an 8 hour round trip via Vienna (wouldn’t bother going) and a costly balls-up with our flight booking we arrived in Kiev. First impressions: its hot, even hotter on the buses, and taxis don’t understand the English alphabet, or a map. Arrive at hostel 3am. Next impression, Ukrainians like to drink, straight out with our host to a German bar of all places. Final impression on first night, there are a shedload of Swedish fans here.
After a day of sightseeing in Kiev it on the overnight train to Donetsck. Train stations are immaculate and extremely ornate. The trains are less impressive but they run on time, they hot but full of footy fans so good craic on the way down.
It’s so good to get away. Sometimes life is tough; work can be hard, you are hurt by loosing people and things you love. It’s important to enjoy the small things in life that make you smile. Seeing a fully grown man drop like a dead weight from the top bunk of the overnight seeper train to Donetsck was one of those things! Both myself and (Joyce replacement) Lee Pendrey were lucky enough to witness the silhouette crumple to a heap on the carriage floor. Unable to assist as we were both doubled up with laughter, DBR jumped up to assist ‘the bear’ whom, half drunk, half asleep and probably mildly concussed proceeded to stumble to a resting place on the bunk below him, lieing straight on top of the unsuspecting gentleman below. Haha memories like this are a blessing and will stay with us forever.
So to Donetsck and match day… Arrive early doors and head to campsite. Check in takes two hours, poor girls on the desk look like they’ve never seen a computer before, one finger typing all the way. We’ve missed the Englandfans trip to the John Hughes (founder of Donetsck) brewery so straight to the fanzone. Beers & quick defeat of Russians on official fanzone joga (4on4) pitch, won on pens after 3-3 draw, could this be a omen? Jump on lè shuttle bus to game with some of the few French fans we’ve seen. Great atmosphere around the stadium, its been a while since experiencing to buzz of a tournament game, but a distinct lack of Englandfans compared to what were used to. Lots of Russians in the crowd all of whom seem eager to get pictures with us and other Englandfans with their trademark St Georges crosses (clubname embroidred across the middle with names in each quadrant).
The Donbass arena is equally impressive inside as out, 55’000 capacity UEFA elite A stadium, able to host Champions League Finals and the like. Englandfans in good voice, with the chant of the day being:
‘We’ll do what we want,
We’ll do what we waa-aaa-nt,
F*ck off Sol Campbell,
We’ll do what we want’
Not quite sure what to think of this as there is definitely a lack of traveling black and Asian fans, no doubt influenced by the BBC Panarama programme aired prior to the tournament. Whilst their was definitely an agenda behind the editing of the documentary you can’t deny what was on camera, disgusting scenes of Asian fans being beaten up for no reason other than their colour. Sol Campbell’s comments were taken immediately after seeing the footage and you can understand his concerns in advising black & Asian fans not to travel despite the show focusing on Ukrainian club football which is a world away from spotlight an international tournament brings.
Anyhow from kick off its clear Roy Hodgeson has the team well drilled. England start the better team with Scotty Parker putting in a terrier like performance in midfield but also being more than useful with his distribution. The wide men disappoint, Milner giving the ball away too often and the Ox, whist looking lively, failing to get on possession. Glen Johnson stays on his feet well but gives Nasri a little too much respect, backing off when he could put a tackle in having Milner as cover. Wellbeck looks assured with some nice touches and hold up play. The England goal really gets the crowd going. ‘Roy Hodgeson’s barmy army’ are on march, memories of Arry are in the past and the fans are 100% with the manager. You have to trust someone with RHs experience. Too much respect given for the French goal, albeit a great strike from eventual man of the match Nasri who gets taunted throughout with chants of ‘wanker’ (v. imaginative!) every time he nears the England fans to take a corner. Rather than react he looks like he’s struggling not to laugh, always nice to see a smile and some humour on a football pitch.
All in all, most of the fans wipll take the 1-1 result, the general mood being that the 3 Lions will be hard to beat, but may struggle to create, especially until the Roon is back from suspension. Either way its a night out in a pizza restaurant for us followed by a trip back to Kiev for match day two….