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Life And Football In Lisbon!

By: Rob Sedgwick
Date: 16/06/2004

ROB Sedgwick is in Lisbon and sends this report on what it is like in the city centre and the performance of the English fans so far.

Over the weekend the centre of Lisbon was transformed into a football frenzy, but I would estimate that at least half the football fans in total were English; the other nationalities were present in lesser numbers.

It quickly became apparent that a square in the centre was "England's", and that became a magnet for most of our supporters - the later in the evening you went the more hostile it got! I looked for a Town flag there, but there didn't seem to be any during my visits, although I saw a few Town flags at the game.

".…If you don't have anyone to fight with though there's not going to be any trouble!…."

Anyone who regularly attends games knows the phenomenon of trying to see who other fans are supporting by looking at club crests and colours, which I've been doing all week. You just naturally spend a good deal of time looking at men's chests, which is the wrong way round from non-footie fans I suppose! It's like a Saturday afternoon, which lasts for a week.

There seemed to be very little trouble around the square, as the police were all congregated out of sight around the corner, and all the other countries just avoided the place. All the bars around there were also packed predominantly with English fans. If you don't have anyone to fight with though there's not going to be any trouble!

We had to get to the France game 3 hours before kick-off, and they kept us queuing for ages to get into the ground (which was awesome - and a light-year away from Wycombe, Rushden, Chesterfield, etc). It was so hard to get into the ground in fact that some supporters had to climb over walls to get their way in, even though they had legitimate tickets!

The organisers concern over security and safety in fact seemed to have the opposite effect! It was the same going home as huge crushes developed when they wouldn't let people into the Metro.

Even though tickets were exchanging hands for 1000 Euros (600 UKP) before the game, and there were a few fans without tickets, I would estimate that at least 5% of the seats near me were not actually taken, which seems incredible as people must have paid for their tickets and then not turned up.

The game itself everyone will know about but I won't comment on that other than a lifetime spent supporting Town was ideal preparation for the pain and disappointment!

As for the rest of the tournament I've watched most of the games in Portuguese and not read a paper, so I only have my own opinions to go on. The referees seem to have been very lenient. England and France should both have had players sent off for the penalties IMHO, and generally defenders seem to be getting away with yellow cards when they should be getting red ones - which makes cheating a lot easier! Portugal losing was amusing, but nobody I saw seemed that gutted!

I'm not off to the Switzerland game as I don't have a ticket, and I'm not prepared to pay the going rate for touts. Plus the capacity is only 30,000 so there's half the number available. They don't have any big screens in Lisbon so I'll probably watch it in my hotel bar. So the rest of my week here has been pretty much like a normal holiday (until 5pm).

Come on England!

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