Kiev: England vs Sweden
Arriving in Kyiv for the second time round the number of Swedish fans seemed to have multiplied tenfold. The centre of Kyiv has been dominated by an amazing fanzone, extending the whole length of the main street, Khreshchatyk – the equivilent of Regent street being pedestrian with 4 giant screens. Part of the zone has been turned into a Swedish area with two bars serving up beers & pizza. Like the Dutch, its hard not to be impressed by the organisation and number of Swedish supports. We watched Croatia vs Italy and then Ireland vs Spain – really good to actually catch some games after having missed much of the action whilst travelling on trains. We headed off with some locals to ‘club 44’ for a night on the pi$$, the club was perhaps the only place in Kiev that Englandfans outnumbered the Swedes. We woke up early doors on Match day II with a stinking hangover. We were meeting with London Englandfans for a tour of Kyiv organised by Mark Perryman. A local guide showed us round the city accompanied by local TV crew (link to hopefully follow). The tour was part of a fans initiative showing the good side of England fans. We’re not all aggressive drunks like the papers may like you to believe. Having said that, I must admit that we didn’t take in all the tour had to offer due to stinking hangover!
France Vs Ukraine was the early kick off so we headed into the fanzone only to find the match was suspended due to heavy rainfall after the first few minutes. We walked down to the stadium hoping to find a bar near the ground to catch the game. One thing I would say about Ukraine is that they still have a little way to go in terms of catching on to capitalism. Its not difficult to keep football fans happy: ensure a readily available supply of beer & food + throw some tunes on if no footy is on. It was actually impossible to buy a beer on the way to the stadium, bars had set up special street vendors, but any queue with more than 3 people is going to be a ten minute wait, the service is incredibly slow. We ended up in a nightclub which had opened early, happily paying London bar prices in order to get served.
All the chat amongst the Englandfans was why only around 3000 supporters turned up. Was it the credit crunch, the panorama programme or the terrible showing in South Africa? I don’t think anyone who has been to a tournament would be put off by the usual negative media hype but it could possibly deter fans who haven’t travelled before. I think the low expectation of the team certainly has a part to play. I think a major point is that over the last 4/5 years actually watching England play is pretty boring in itself. The team don’t have a recognized style of play, we don’t play exciting football, despite some on the big names that set the Prem alight on a weekly basis. Watching England vs Wales in the qualifiers was a particularly dull occasion which did prompt me to think why we bother.sometimes! However, there is always the dream when a tournament comes round that the team will go all the way, enough to keep the regular supporters coming back for tournaments.
Some friendly taunts came from the Sweedes:
I’m an arsehole,
I’m an arsehole
I’m an arsehole, yes I am…
But I would rather be an arsehole than a fuck-king Englishman!
Exiting the bar enroute to stadium, we were stopped by the police to make way for the procession of Swedes who had embarked on an organised march from the fanzone to the stadium, an amazing sea of yellow and blue swept down the street in front of us.
Outnumbered but not outsung: two of the best supported teams in the tournament = great game
Some pride was restored when settling in the England end of the ground. Although outnumbered, we were not outsung during one of the best games of the tournament so far. Ibrahimavich decided to turn up and today and impressed for the Swedes. England looked shaky for long periods but also looked dangerous in attack, Wellbeck again showing maturity to hold the ball up and link well with Carroll. RH certainly knows his football, having conceding two headed goals against Ukraine Carroll started for England and again punished the Swedes from the air to put England 1-0 up. After worrying defensive lapses that put Sweden 2-1 up, RH rolled the dice, sticking on Walcott who made an immediate impact, scoring (what on first impression to be a deflected goal) and then setting up Wellbeck for the winner after some great wingplay. The finish was sublime, sending Englandfans into a Wellbeck wonderland and off to the Kyiv clubs to party till sunrise.
Seeing Ibrohimivic live finially made us realise he has the talent to match the hype.
The following time in Kyiv was spent visiting the larva (an underground monestry) and the Chernobyl museum. Then it was a trip to the station to board the night train to Donetsck for the crunch clash with our hosts….