World Cup: Watching England has never been so appetising

Tim Sturtridge

The main course 300x225 World Cup: Watching England has never been so appetisingI’m happy to report I watched England commence their World Cup resurrection live in South Africa. The fact that I was craning my neck to catch a glimspe on a mute television in a shopping centre will probably be left out when I return with tales of “I was there”.

With a ticket to Ghana versus Germany burning a hole in my pocket I took the decision to take in the England game at Southgate Mall, leaving me well placed to hit Soccer City at full time.

I took a seat outside the Spur’ Falcon Arrow Steak Ranch which faced the communal television in the food hall. With kick-off still an hour away a quick pour over the menu proved a boost to an already burgeoning sense of patriotism.

During my time in Argentina such household British favourites as nachos mexicana, piri-piri beef strips and sticky spare ribs have proved impossible to track down. Any designs you may have on scampi are best left well behind at the customs check in Ezeiza.

The supermarket shelves have been trumped only by the warmness of South Africans in given the host country a real home away from home feel. Strong teabags are once again part of my daily life along with sweetmeats I had forgotten even existed. Sure the football has been a bonus but could it ever really stand up against reacquainting myself with with shortbread and ginger nuts?

With a peppermelt burger in the post and bottles of Castle coming and going of their own accord I began to relax into my matchday surroundings. The only fly in the ointment was a posse of Yanks trying to change the channel and the strong German presence in the food hall, you knew they would be chirping up should Capello and the lads balls it up.

England’s bright start came as welcome relief compared to the dross they had served up in the past week. I got so comfy taking in James Milner’s touch and delivery that I allowed my mind to wonder back  to Munich Bus Station.

After following England through the group stages in Germany I heading home from the Fan Park in Stuttgart. A marathon coach session started out on the day England were due to take on Ecuador at the old Adolf-Hitler-Kampfbahn. I toyed with idea of sticking around Stuttgart for the match but after crunching the numbers it seemed I had to head off that morning if I was going to catch my connection in Amsterdam.

I waved goodbye to the high spirited England fans lobbing seats around Stuttgart city centre and boarded my first bus of the day. Inspired timing meant I had left myself a two hour window in Munich to watch the England game before hopping on a bus to Holland. I was therefore able to take in the turgid affair as Sven’s men huffed and puffed to a 1-0 win against Ecuador.

I drifted off to a six hour sleep easy enough on the coach out of Munich and only woke up when the coach stopped to pick up more passengers. In the shop I paid for my bottle of water and asked the girl where I was, bloody Stuttgart! I could have witnessed that turgid affair first hand and had plenty of time to spare for chair tossing before boarding this very coach.

No such trials in Southgate Mall, the Germans inching further and further towards the screen as the game closed out but they were given no reason to gloat. The only slight discomfort came just after the final whistle blew when the ice-cream parlour in the bowels of the shopping centre let out a collective yelp.

It seems the Yanks had found a place willing to show their match, now their celebrations were being topped off with hundreds and thousands.

If the campaign had shaped up differently then perhaps there could be reason to view finishing second in Group C as a failure. Anyone who watched all three England games has got to admit however that still being in the mix is as good a result as we could wish for.

I settled up for my burger and beers as clusters of English speaking fans talked about swapping Rustenburg tickets for a seat in Bloemfontein and vice-versa. All that was left for me to do was wonder down to Soccer City with the Germans and find out who England would face next.

As if the winner of Group D was ever in doubt? I’m just glad I don’t have to watch Sunday’s game in Munich Bus Station.

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