Copacabana football (2001)


A striker and goalkeeper clashed going for the ball, two yards away from goal. Both fell over in the sand, the ball a yard away.

The striker, lying prone, looked like Fidel Castro in his prime – bearded, barrel-chested, slight pot belly, but muscular.

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Pele Museum, Lugansk – Музей Пеле


The Pele Museum in Lugansk is, frankly, utterly surreal.

Thousands of miles away from Brazil, near the Russian border, it’s a shrine to Nikolai Khubodin’s childhood infatuation with the greatest player ever.

Nikolai, who played for his home town team Zorya Lugansk, heard about him on the radio in 1965 when he was ten.

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Pele Museum, Lugansk – Музей Пеле


Yes there really IS a Pele Museum in Lugansk.

Lugansk is in Ukraine. Twenty miles from the Russian border,  it  is the easternmost major city in the country and has about 500,000 inhabitants. 

There is a Pele museum in Santos, where Pele played for the local team, which is about 7,000 miles away from Lugansk.  I hope to visit the Santos museum later this year. 

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Kickin’ Kiev – Ukraine 2 France 0

So it’s Ukraine’s to lose. Finish feeble France off and the World Cup will be all the better for it.

Les Bleus were bleu-dy awful and this must rank as Ukraine’s greatest day in football – the moment the champion chokers beat a world power convincingly.

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Monty Python and the Holy Bale – Macedonia 2 Wales 1

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Time was, when the surreal stuff, the weird and wonderfully wacky ways of Welsh fans were the defining characteristic of a trip and indeed, the sole reason for going. Away games were the closest we might get to a journey to Mars or being in a rock band.

I can remember the concierge of Baku’s Hotel Grot, as it should have been called, asking me: “Why your friends throw TV from 16th floor window?” He wouldn’t have understood the answer: “Because they’re from Bala.”

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