Wednesday, 26 May 2010

15 days to go: oopsy

Ok. There was this matter of concern on day T-178. In an attempt to pull cross the Channel without the help of P&O, I pulled on those speedos and sailed out on a canoe. Over the last few months it has come to my attention that a canoe is not the most efficient kind of boat to sail open waters in. Twas a foggy day and tiring after 20 minutes or so, I managed to divert almost 90 degrees to my right without realising. Woke up in a Cherbourg hospital later that evening.

As I contracted some kind of illness, I ended up a bit behind and thought I'd fly to Spain without telling you, just to catch up the journey (also largely to avoid Christmas in France). Then whilst typing a piece about Oman-Biyik in Madrid airport, and I know this is getting a bit much, I attracted the attentions of some law enforcement agency, whom I can only presume were tipped off by 'craig4rx'.

It was obvious that my journalistic meddling was digging too deep. Something was up here. I was deported to Russia and held in a boot for several hours. I overheard something in Spanish talking about the world cup and referees. Now, I've been in relative isolation for months and when that happens you go mad, you think of things that are quite impossible, but I believe something enormous has come of this. I'm certain there's some sort of deal going off with the Spanish FA and FIFA officiating. You heard it here first! Spain will win the World Cup!

Anyway, its been a tough ride and I'm afraid this blog has constantly been just out of reach. Even after escaping pre-broadbandic, antiquated landscapes like Siberia, the powers that be were noticably persistant and this unwanted attention tended to usher me in the way of other arresting situations. Thailand was difficult, do NOT go on holiday there. They bloody hated me!

Eventually I played them off against each other and hitched a ride Westwards from a much kinder Malaysian gent. Over the next few weeks I learned of the most upsetting situation in Somalia. A clear lack of organisation and a collective penchant for violence are unsuitable foundations for any society. And another lesson: pirates aren't cool, they're just dicks with guns. Sadly for them, as they could barely talk right, negotiating was pretty much beyond them, and the news audience for the threat to a Malay fisherman and an Englishman living under the radar for months, without so much as a blog post since 2009, these days is close to zero.

So my Malay friend, Anbu I think his name was, held the view if you can't beat them, join them. Well, I'm not much good with a Kalasnikov, or indeed a machete, but I sure know how to look after one. This knowledge earned me a route out of Somalian waters and I was transported in a box to another unknown territory. I count myself very lucky that it turned out to be Zimbabwe, one of the final stops on my poorly planned route.

Weeks ahead of schedule, some would accuse me of being complacent. But I took it upon myself to raise funds to leave Harare with some chance of purchasing a new laptop. With all the public criticism of Zimbabwean politics, I must defend the level of social mobility they have worked towards. Within a fortnight I was the fourth assistant in line to the Junior Propaganda Minister, a noble position in this great nation.

And yet I never let the goal out of my sights. On a major informations push in the West of the country, I used my authority to avert prying eyes as I sidestepped behind a few trees and disappeared into the Chizarira National Park. Several days have passed but I am now in a territory unknown to myself, featuring an internet cafe, and presumably just North of my favoured destination, South Africa.

The race is back on, with 15 days to go. But in the mean time I may settle with Magic Bougherra, Hong Youg-Jo and Koren as my tips for 2010. Just easier.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

World Cup Legends #178: H├ęctor Castro

Today's game is mostly about the athlete. African nations are being talked up largely thanks to their pace and power over 90 minutes, no one ever writes off northern European teams and Spain and Brazil now mix their traditional technique with more solid physique and tactical nous.

Not even your Grandad could say its not how it used to be. When they were out fighting the Great War in Europe in 1917, young Hector here was chopping his forearm off with an electric saw. Not to worry, Hector pressed on with a career as one of Uruguay's finest players, becoming an Olympic champion and then World Champion at the inaugral FIFA World Cup. His goal in that final was the last word in the tournament.

Imperfect as he may have appeared, Castro was tough as old boots, as well as the old balls they used in the thirties, and would often nail foes with his stump, Harald Schumacher style. Suppose they couldnt accuse him of elbowing.

Players to watch #178: Robert Koren

I can't help but focus on Group C and the opportunities it launches directly down England's collective national esophagi. Nor can I help using the early stages of this list to make examples of some teams by their best known personnel. Robert Koren is a leading light at the Hawthorns, but lets remember where the Hawthorns lies. WBA are an exciting side at the second tier and a good bet for promotion, but next season is bound for chain after everlasting chain of dismally disappointing Premiership defeats.

Koren is also a leading light at Slovenia. Their recent history of shock qualifications for major tournaments should show that if a stronger side were to assume an easy ride they will be inviting a humiliating slap in the face. I'm sure Hiddink wasn't so lax in attitude over two legs and now look at him.

Still, England are playing at the World Cup finals and with a man like Capello holding the flag of promise rather than umbrella of despair this summer, we should be near the top of our game and with the workrate that should be standard for this side, we could dispose of Koren and Slovenia in 45 minutes and still afford to look all cagey for the remainder. I wouldn't even say different about both the other Group C team's chances against Matjaz Kek's boys.

World Cup Legends #179:Pak Doo-Ik

If we cannot remotely imagine a future containing 'Asia's surprise package' in any other form than writhing in its internally-inflicted doom, then we can at least try to relay the past with some accuracy. So I bring to you the legend of Pak Doo-Ik.

Somehow appearing in England in 1966, North Korea sensationally disposed of two-time champions Italy 1-0 thanks to the Pak. Drama followed them to the quarter finals where they took a three goal lead against Portugal and then surrendered it to the great Eusebio, who was having the tournament of his life, and losing 5-3.

They shall finally meet again in the summer. Pak was a military man and received great honour for his part, though it is said that many of his teammates were executed for their ultimate failure. And yet many North Koreans still believe their team to e out there fighting. It is commonly believed that this was a war in which N.Korea captured the nation of Italy and battled westward along the Mediterranean where they fell in Lisbon.

Perhaps we should not be expecting a 23 man squad to arrive in South Africa as much as a 23 tonne nuclear warhead aimed at the visiting Emperor Cristiano. Making my means of travel rather well considered in comparison.

Players to watch #179: Hong Yong-Jo

Its hard to write anything about North Korea. Officially, or according to the State, this man doesn't exist, yet in the Russian town of Rostov he is a known striker and rumoured as the primary goal threat for his 'wildcard' national side. Can't say that about many North Koreans but I have sworn to make a contribution about every nation heading to the same destination as myself (albeit by wiser means). Something doesn't quite add up...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

179 days to go: Ah, balls.

That was a tremendous start to the blog. I failed to make the posts I was intending to make yesterday until this afternoon.

So my physical journey began. I took the tube to Wembley Central yesterday afternoon, kissed the concrete outside (couldn't get to the hallowed turf) and marched down the A404. No crowds around to wave nobly to as the ICExperience Skating Extravaganza was cancelled. Wonders never cease.

I'm travelling light. It annoys me that I'm carrying a 20 pack of smokes and not 10, so there's no way I'll consider a tent or any survival gear or anything. I'm heading south to where its warmer anyway. Mighty shattered by the time I reached Marble Arch I can tell you, but I pressed on, crossing Waterloo Bridge with thoughts of a quarter final with France in mind. There's never been a better time to take them on I swear. This draw has been good to us. But it was already dark and everything became much worse. I was ready for bed long before I reached the M25. Never try this under any circumstances.

I bedded down in a B&B near East Grinstead. At this stage I was chatting to local about my plans as I realised I hadn't really told anyone in person to gauge their reaction. He was full of enthusiasm for me until I spoke of the plans for the following day, and he kind of went all quiet.

Now when I was crossing Waterloo Bridge I had envisioned something like the Normandy Landing. I have packed both my Speedos and a P&O Ferries leaflet, but I intend to do this the hard way. He eventually warned me that my planned departure from Hastings, at this time of year especially, would result in my death. I don't even have a swimming hat. My only hope is to head to Dover, which is miles away. Still, two free Penguin biscuits at the B&B!

Anyway I had to check out almost before dawn this morning so I pressed on to Dover. I'd like to say I'm nearly there but not really. There is basically nothing in Kent. This has been a frighteningly bad error early on. More positive updates tomorrow.

World Cup Legends #180: Jorge Burruchaga

And so we start our countdown of classics with a World Cup winning goalscorer. 'Burru' was a midfielder in Carlos Bilardo's Argentina side of 1986. Inspired as a boy by their 1978 home victory, he rapidly grew in popularity despite the similarity of his name to 'Burro', spanish for donkey. I always wondered how he might cope. But donkey he was not as he took the honour of receiving Maradona's sublime pass and netting a 3-2 winner over a resiliant German side, who had come back twice from behind. So resiliant in fact that four years later the final threw up a rematch, a rather more sombre affair, which the Germans won. 1-0. That settles that then.