My FIFA Under 17 World Cup Diary – Day 14 – Matchday, last 16

Wednesday October 30th 2013

Wow! What a night! I witnessed the effect football, especially a successful team has on its people, fans and just strangers tonight. It has been well established since the first game versus Mexico that the Nigerians have the most fans at this tournament, however this game tonight has shown me that they have an incredible amount of people investing in them.

Usually before a match, I’d be in the changing rooms just soaking in the atmosphere and picking up as much as I could from their top quality coaches, but not tonight. From the time we got to the stadium at 6.15pm until kick off at8pm, I was receiving phonecalls from all sorts of people asking about getting VIP entrance to the match. I had people claiming to be ambassadors, friends of friends, player’s agents and even friends of the president trying to get in the VIP section. Funny thing was, I had no influence on who was allowed in, although I did use my one wild card to get Guardiola’s agent in! It struck me how many people are already sniffing around these players. It must be hard as a kid trying to make it in this game because show one sign of ability and promise, especially in a successful team, and you will find so many people trying to get a piece of you. I saw so many new faces in the VIP areas tonight and just by looking at them, you could sense the lions ready to pounce. Even Asamoah Gyan was there tonight, although we were playing in his ‘home town’. I don’t think he was interested in picking anyone up though, to be fair to him.

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We got back to the hotel today after the match and it was total mayhem in the lobby! There were about a hundred people, various cameramen and hotel staff all lined up to welcome the boys in with applause and handshakes. There were so many people here, it was hard to know who was supposed to be here and who was just joining the party. In fact, I was the one who got asked for proof of who I was on more than one occasion. Things got worse when I wasn’t even allowed to enter my own hotel room until I had shown my accreditation pass! This is the same security by my door that I walk past about ten times a day and he suddenly remembers he has a job to do! He will definitely know who I am after tonight.

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And this was just a win in the last 16. I shudder to think what will happen if they manage to win this tournament.

Nigeria won by the way. Beat a disappointing Iranian team 4-1 with goals from the left back Okon, captain fantastic Musa, reported Arsenal target Iheanacho and creative midfielder Yahaya. The banner I designed got another day in the sun, which was nice! I’m waiting for some press photographer to print it!

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It seems everyone is hoping and praying for a Nigeria v Brazil final and the way that draw has panned out, it could just be so. We have a very tough game against Uruguay in the quarters so the boys will need to be on their guard. I believe that with the coaches they have though, they will be very well prepared. I managed to sit Mr Nduka Ugbade, one of the coaches and the first person the lift the under 17 World cup (1985) to talk coaching philosophies and I left the near-two hour chat with my mind blown. This man is so incredibly educated about football and can express himself so eloquently and enthusiastically. I found myself smiling inwards just listening to him talk about the importance of teaching game intelligence and how to actually do this, and the differences between for example the Brazilian and  European coaching philosophies.

I left this chat even more angry at the state of African football and the politics involved. This was a guy, who along with Mr Emmanuel Amuneke (1994 African player of the year and ex Barcelona star) and Mr Manu Garba (who lifted the trophy as a coach in 2007 too) is extremely experienced and knowledgeable about the sport, and yet I found that there was some sort of barrier to all of them being able to exert theirs influence on a bigger scale for various, mainly political, reasons in my opinion. Typically, it seems the curse of African dealings, where people have an ‘I’ll look after myself’ attitude is what’s holding us back from really making a name for ourselves and getting African football on the map as one of the truly great nations. With the amount of African players who have and are playing at such high levels, it’s a sad shame that our national leagues and games are not as fruitful. We have the players with the talent, we definitely have the resources in terms of things can generate money; oil, gas, fruitful land, crops etc, yet we still live in almost ‘third world’ conditions. This applies to a wider range of factors other than football, but since I’m talking about football, that is my point of reference.

How great would it be to have one African country decide to invest some of the profits from all their resources into establishing a real, genuine quality grassroots program, run by real sports development departments with no other agenda than to move the country to another level, sport-wise?

Anyway, enough of a rant.

It’s time to get back on the road again tomorrow, to Sharjah this time. For people who don’t know, Sharjah is the place in the UAE where anything bad that could happen always happens. Children falling off balconies? Happened in Sharjah. Cars and buildings on fire? That must be Sharjah. Newborn babies being left in bins? Oh yeah that’s Sharjah. Let’s hope we manage to avoid the curse of Sharjah for the match on Saturday.

The road to Abu Dhabi continues.

My FIFA Under 17 World Cup Diary – Days 12 and 13

Sunday 27th October 2013

This day can be summed up in two words: dead day. Nothing of interest happened apart from the usual high intensity training and me getting smashed at table tennis again.

Monday 28th October 2013

Today was a busier day with another early rise for training and then the pre-match meeting followed by the press conference for the game with Iran tomorrow, all before lunchtime. I have to say I’m really enjoying the press conferences, especially the answers given by the coach Manu Garba. He has this friendly but serious and witty edge to his answers that leaves reporters with nowhere to go after a question but to accept the answer given. I had some great examples to give here, but I seem to have drawn a blank. I really should start writing some of these down…

Press conference. I should get a pen and pad too

Press conference. I should get a pen and pad too

The guys at the Local Organising Committee were brilliant today in surprising one of the boys with a birthday cake. He’s only 15 but massive, which is good as he’s a goalkeeper. I know Africans have a reputation as ‘generous’ with their ages, depending on which way favours them, but I have been surprised at the sizes of some of the players! Sweden’s number 20, Strandberg is a total giant, as is Brazil’s Mosquito. Yes that’s his name. The boy has a full adult beard and the stature to rival a basketballer. These MRI scans to determine a player’s age seems to have missed the other teams..  Anyway, the cake was a very nice gesture and shows the hospitality and  generosity of the local organisers, especially those in Al Ain, who have been amazing. One way or the other, our last day in Al Ain will be tomorrow and I’m really going to miss those guys. They have been brilliant in making things so easy, especially for TLOs like myself with the amount of transport, ticket and other requests we get each day.

Best birthday cake ever

Best birthday cake ever

I felt a bit bad for the boys today because I was asked to get all the tvs in their rooms disconnected, meaning they had nothing to do now apart from eating, sleeping and thinking of tomorrow’s game. It’s not for me to say whether it’s right or wrong and the coaches are obviously experienced and know what they are doing. It just struck me as another difference in the approach to big games. I was talking to a member of the hotel staff today and she commented on the differences in different countries, citing the smartly dressed and suited Iraqis walking into the hotel in straight, immaculate lines on their first day and comparing them to the Swedes who had tracksuits and t-shirts on, McDonalds cup in hand and headphones on their heads. At the time of writing, Sweden had just made it to the quarter finals in their first ever competition at the expense of the fancied Japanese team, and Iraq went out without a win so once again, it’s a case of whatever works for you.

I also found out that Nigeria’s Chelsea boy, Habib Makanjoula is only 14 and the youngest ever player to play in this tournament. Ivory Coast have a 13 year old in the squad but he has yet to play. It’s crazy to think kids that young are good enough to be playing in a World tournament at such a young age. Then again, if there are 13 year old fathers in some towns in England, why can’t they play in World Cups? I actually bought little Habib some cocoa butter yesterday as per his request, so that could be my claim to fame in a few years. “Son, you see that player who just scored the winner in the World Cup Final? See his soft and smooth skin? Well, that’s because when he was 14, I bought him some ‘Palmer’s Cocoa Butter.’ He’s never looked back since …”

It’s getting to that stage where nerves are a little sharper, patience a little thinner and penalties practiced more  fervently. Everyone knows one mistake and you leave the UAE the next day, so it’s really squeaky bum time. I am hoping and praying that these boys make it all the way. I genuinely do believe they have some fantastic players, especially the captain Musa Mohammed, who is just such a leader and an inspiration, the 14, Chidebere Nwakali, a clever and hard working  midfielder and their number 11 Yahaya, their most creative player in my opinion. Then you have their main man Success Isaac, who is just a fantastic forward who will go places if looked after properly. I heard today that Arsenal are chasing Mexico’s four goal mauler Kelechi Iheanacho, who is an incredibly deadly finisher, so this team has some pedigree. Of course luck and various other things will have to be on the team’s side if they are to return home victorious, but they definitely have the potential.

The road to Abu Dhabi really starts tomorrow.

My FIFA Under 17 World Cup Diary – Day 11 – back ‘home’

Saturday 26th October 2013

It’s getting to that stage where I have to constantly check the date because I have no idea what day it is. We left the hotel in Dubai this morning with no problems, unlike two of the other teams who forgot a player and a coach of their respective teams on their way to the airport. By the way, whenever a team is knocked out, they are supposed to leave the hotel the very next day and that also ends the job of the Team Liaison Officer. Hopefully my job will end on 8th November, the final! I had a quick look at Nigeria’s side of the draw and it’s definitely favoured them as teams like Brazil, Mexico, Italy and Argentina are all on the opposite side. We do have Iran, our next opponents and Sweden and Uruguay to contend with though so it’ll still be a tough run to the final.

This job is fun and such a great experience, but I have to say the travelling is starting to get a little tedious. From now on, it will be a few days in a hotel and then move to another one, with Sharjah on Wednesday, Dubai on Sunday, and then Abu Dhabi  on the Wednesday. This is of course based on a smooth path to the final, God willing. At least I’m perfecting my packing. Plus, the bus travel could be more comfortable. The players and staff like their own space during travels so they usually take a pair of seats per man. This leaves me with the option of either squeezing in next to a player or sitting at the front next to the bus driver. I prefer the latter. However, I do wonder if I made the right decision when the blazing midday sun beats down on my face all journey. Even the air conditioning is rendered redundant when faced with such  formidable heat and the leg space is suited for dwarves or children under 10. At least, if things ever went south, I could join a circus as a contortionist. Don’t get me wrong, I realise how lucky and blessed I am to be in this position, but the lack of settlement and travelling is definitely one of the negative aspects. I guess it’s all part of the process though.

Another part of the travelling process is the police escort we receive whenever the team makes a movement, whether it’s for training or to another venue. I noticed a marked difference between the attitudes of Dubai and Al Ain drivers. Basically, drivers in Dubai couldn’t care less if the car in front is a police vehicle or not. The amount of times I saw cars brazenly cut up the team bus or even the police cars themselves was unbelievable. At one point, when stuck in a bit of traffic, a car in the wrong lane waited until the final moments before speeding past a barrier to join our lane. The crazy thing is he managed to do this by blatantly cutting in front of our police escort! To be fair to him, the police didn’t even bother to do anything about it so maybe they were used to it. Every now and then, they remember they have powers and use their hands to signal to drivers to either wait or go past us but it’s usually a free-for-all as usual. Or maybe they don’t notice being cut up, which, judging by today’s actions of our escort, wouldn’t surprise me.

Police escort doing their thing

Al Ain police escort doing their thing

Today, our Dubai police escort got lost when moving us out of the Emirate. Yes, the police escort who was supposed to guide us out of his own city took us on the wrong road and had to do a u-turn in a narrow street. That’s pretty standard when you have a small car or a 4×4, but we were in a massive coach! The poor coach driver had to do about six manoeuvres back and forth before we could move again. It reminded me of Austin Powers. I have to give a lot of respect to bus and coach drivers because the way our driver moves that bus and manipulates it over and through small openings always astounds me. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve winced and tensed up thinking he’s steered too far and will hit a kerb and he hasn’t hit anything yet, although my money’s on him ramming an inconsiderate driver before we leave this tournament, most probably in Dubai.

Tonight, I sat and watched ‘El Classico’ and discussed coaching philosophies with ex Barcelona star and 1994 African player of the year, Emmanuel Amuneke and the first captain to lift the under 17 World Cup and all round funny guy, Nduka Ugbade, both Nigerian coaches. To say I was star struck being in the company of ‘real’ footballers, before the sport got glitzy and showbiz, is an understatement. I even lent Mr Amuneke 200AED. He’s definitely the most decorated man I’ve lent money to. He’s most definitely the only person I’ve lent money to and not expecting or even wanting payback.

My FIFA Under 17 World Cup Diary – Day 10. Matchday 3 v Iraq

Another matchday, another three points for the ‘Golden Eaglets’ of Nigeria. Some of these players can really play, especially the captain Musa Mohammed and the number 14, Chidibere Nwakali. They are also some of the nicest boys too. Unfortunately their main striker, Success Isaac was injured but hopefully he’ll be back in the next round, who we are yet to find out at the time of writing this. Once again, the stadium was filled with Nigerian fans. I really don’t know where they come from but it’s such a good feeling to see so many fans, and loud ones too, performing the now famous index finger bouncing ‘Yes! Yes!’ celebration. At one point, the stewards were trying to keep the fans apart for some unknown reason, and true to form, the fans just ignored them and carried on joining their counterparts. That all added to a great atmosphere tonight. During this game, I had a brilliant business thought which I won’t mention until I am able to implement, but it could be the start of a great movement!

Yes!! Yes!!

Yes!! Yes!!

What we do know is we are going back to Al Ain, which I am quite looking forward to even though I will be sad to leave this hotel. I feel a lot closer and more comfortable with the staff at Al Ain, probably because we have already spent a week together and I for one am looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and getting out of the Dubai traffic!

Hanging by the pool in our hotel today, I found myself sitting next to Chelsea FC and Jon Obi Mikel’s friend Mark Clattenburg on the sunbeds. He was to referee the Argentine v Canada game after our game. My first impression of him was how much weight he had lost and how skinny he looked. He was a right fatty when he joined the Premiership but had now trimmed to footballer fitness. Apparently they have been up at 5am to train for two-and-a-half hours every day since being here. I found out another two things about Mr Clattenburg today; that he was a Geordie and a Staunch Newcastle United fan, and secondly, that he had a sense of humour.

I remarked that I had met the beast of a referee, Mr Nelson Pitana in our last game (read day 8’s blog) and I was told a funny story about him that either shows Mr Clattenburg to be a fun guy (in my opinion) or a bit of a stitch up (in Chelsea fans’ opinion). Apparently Mr Pitana had asked Mr Clattenburg for some basic English lessons to help him get through meetings and Mr Clattenburg had helpfully told him to reply ‘F**k off’ when asked any question during their meeting. Thankfully, Mr Pitana had yet to follow this advice. Maybe everyone’s too scared to ask him a question, although I’m sure many people would love to see him lamp one on Mr C were Mr Pitana to find out what he’s been taught.

Time to pack again for another trip tomorrow before our game on Tuesday. The green machine rolls on! Yes!! Yes!!

My FIFA Under 17 World Cup Diary – Days 9 and 10

Wednesday 23rd October 2013

As usual, post match days are relaxing and chilled as the players spend the time resting and recovering. We had to travel to Dubai for our next match against Iraq and that’s about as far as we stretched ourselves. ‘Stretched’ may be the appropriate word here because after over two hours going at the prescribed snail’s pace in the team bus behind the police escort, that’s all we wanted to do after embarking.

And what a place to do exactly that! Our hotel in Dubai is relatively new and this can immediately be felt, from the comfortable king sized beds in the rooms to the shiny floors in the lobby, so shiny you can use as a mirror. Our hotel in Al Ain was good, only made great by the staff, but this hotel is just…aaaaah. Great views, beautiful looking pool, standalone bath, it has it all. Even better, the boys have to spend a lot of time resting, so I have been able to venture outside and enjoy some of the great amenities! I’m personally not a massive fan of Dubai because of it’s ‘plasticity’ but after a week in the calmer surroundings of Al Ain, it’s good to see some life again.

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You can guess this was a pretty uneventful day, hence the many photographs. In fact, the most eventful thing that happened was me breaking the light switch in my room when I pressed it in haste before rushing out of the room for a meeting. Now you know why Dubai gets its ‘Plastic City’ tag.

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Lights out

Thursday 24th October 2013

Preparations for tomorrow’s match began in earnest at 8am this morning with some tactical set ups and some patterns of play designed to get the better of Iraq tomorrow. Time will tell if they come to fruition.

A quick breakfast of the usual cereal, fruit and omelette, and myself, the team’s administrator, kit man and doctor went off to the usual pre-match meeting with the medical officer, referee assessor, marketing and media managers, match commissioner and general coordinators. This being our third meeting, we were getting used to the process, and the meetings were getting shorter too, which was a good thing. Obviously FIFA have this exact staff in all the other six locations doing the same thing for each match, which amounts to a lot of staff. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I have realised that FIFA have a LOT of staff. Everyone has a job for every conceivable role to ensure such tournaments run smoothly. And then you have all the local staff too who assist the ‘professionals’. No wonder half of all the hotels in all Emirates are booked up.

After the pre-match meeting, there was time for a bit of chill before we went to the pre-match press conference at the Rashid stadium, home of current Arabian Gulf leaders and 2006 World Player of the year Paolo Cannavaro, Al Ahli. There were the usual typical questions and subsequent typical  answers. I did get slightly irked when one journalist asked the Nigerian manager, Mr Garba what he was going to do about the fact that his team ‘struggled’ to score against more organised defences like Sweden’s, refereeing to the 3-3 draw a few days earlier. I wanted to jump on the stage, look him in the eye and comment that if scoring three goals in a game is a sign of struggle, then let’s have more of that! Gracefully as ever, Mr Garba managed to give a more diplomatic answer than I would have. Perhaps I am not made for the Q&A part of football.

Check me out, a Ghanaian, defending the Nigerian team.

In fact, just before sitting down to write this, I got in a lift and a guy in there asked me where I was from. Withoutthinking, I replied ‘Nigeria’. Believe me, I was shocked myself.

After the press conference, I was asked to be an assistant to an Iraqi TV station’s cameraman, so there is anyone in Iraq reading this, that crackly hand you saw on the sports news was DSC03805mine.

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Our BFG

On our return to the hotel, I saw another amazing thing, or actually an amazing person. One of the hotel porters was THE tallest person I had ever seen. And I have worked with the Harlem Globetrotters. I am sure he is in the Guinness Book of Records for his sheer height. He reminded me of ‘Jaws’ fro the James Bond franchise. Anyway, he was kind enough to let me take a picture with him so take a look yourself.

Big match tomorrow versus Iraq to see where Nigeria end up. I have had a look at the format and predicted the scores. The answers were bittersweet. If Nigeria go all the way, I get to enjoy this experience further. However, it means even longer away from home. I was hoping that we’d get to play some games in Abu Dhabi, meaning I’d be able to quickly pop in to see the family, but it seems like the earliest we will be there is two days before the final. Even worse, if we make it through to the quarter finals, we have to go to…..SHARJAH. If you are not familiar with this place, count yourself lucky…

My FIFA Under 17 World Cup Diary – Day 8. Matchday 2

Tuesday 22nd October 2013

The countdown to match day started around 5.30 and it was a busy one. First of all, a trip to the stadium was needed to drop the kit man, then it was off to the printers to pick up a new banner. The one I had designed came back in the morning and it was perfect apart from one thing. The Nigerian Football Federation had changed its name from ‘Nigerian Football Association’ and in the search for a logo with a high enough resolution for the 3metre x 1metre banner, the printer used ‘Google’ to find it. Unfortunately, the logo he found had the old name, which was an easy mistake to make because it was exactly the same logo and the only change was ‘Association’ to ‘Federation’. This was of course spotted by the eagle-eyed ‘Godlen Eaglets’ media officer so a change was needed. After a phonecall and an email, the task was clear and the printer knew what was needed.

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The boys with the banner designed by yours truly, with the correct logo

Anyway, after dropping off the kit man, we headed to the printer’s to pick up the new banner. At this time, Mexico were on their way to a win against Iraq so security was tight around the stadium and every checkpoint was enforced meticulously. Thankfully, it wasn’t a big enough game to halt traffic too much but it still left things tight because I had to complete these tasks and be back at the hotel by 6.15 to get on the team bus. I managed to make the team bus and get to the stadium on time, then I received another phonecall telling me some Nigerian fans were outside asking for VIP tickets. I went out there and guess who was one of these fans? None other than former Leicester City legend and fans favourite Ade Akinbiyi! I had seen him in my five minutes by the pool earlier in the day and thought I recognised him so when I saw him outside the stadium, I introduced myself and asked him his name. Then I knew it was definitely him. Apparently he is doing some agent work and in fact one of his boys was the Nigerian number 18, Taiwo, who scored the final equaliser. He seemed very friendly and chatty and was happy enough to take my business card, which he will hopefully not use as a coaster, contrary to what my wife believes. I saw him back in our hotel bar after the game watching his rubbish team Arsenal lose, and our conversation ended with ‘I have your card so will text you to give you my number.’ I will be waiting Ade, my new best friend. I will be waiting.

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My mate Ade then

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Ade, first from left, as he is now

Of course, to steal a Dennis Norden phrase, things are always alright on the night and so it proved to be here, apart from the score. A very eventful 3-3 draw between the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria and Sweden means it’s all to play for in the last group games with Nigeria, Sweden and Mexico all in with a good chance of qualifying. In this tournament, the top two plus the top four 3rd place finishes of all the groups go through to the next stage. Nigeria did well to come back from 2-0 and then 3-2 down to grab a draw in the final minutes, especially with my boy Success Isaac coming off midway through the first half with an injury. Nigeria were down 2-1 at half time and I believe the coaches did a great job in picking them up and helping them get this draw. The team talk given by each one of the coaches was extremely positive and constructive, and as a coach myself, it was a boost to hear that the tactical information they gave was the same I would have after seeing the first half. The only difference was they expressed themselves so well and so powerfully. By the end of the speech, I was ready to go out there and bust a gut for the team. And then I remembered that I’m old enough to be some of these kids’ fathers, I have a crocked knee amongst others, and I am extremely unfit. Plus I am not Nigerian.

The referee for this game, a Mr Nestor Pitana from Argentina was a  formidable man. He was massively tall and muscular and looked more of a bodybuilder than a wrestler. In fact, that’s exactly what I asked him when he walked past me before the game. Thankfully he took it in good spirits and was even kind enough to give me his official cards after the game. All the referees here are auditioning to go to Brazil next year so I hope he makes it. He will probably be the one that gives a penalty against England and/or send off Jack Wilshire/Wayne Rooney in the quarter finals.

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The Beast, Mr Pitana

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I couldn’t believe how nervous I found myself in that game. I was kicking every ball and heading every cross away or into the goal, depending on who crossed it. In fact, I was more nervous than I am when watching Man Utd games. Except when we play Liverpool because I hate them so much. Having spent a week with these boys and their friendly and knowledgeable coaches, I am getting really involved in the team. I feel invested in each of them. The fact that they are all so polite and friendly makes the bond even stronger. They are big and athletic boys who look like men, but spend a few minutes talking to them and you realise that they really are just young boys. I almost feel like a father to them, although they probably see me as the guy that takes the pictures and orders KFC for the kit man.

We are off to Dubai in the morning for our next game on Friday against Iraq. A win and Nigeria top the group, meaning we are back to Al Ain on Saturday.

My FIFA Under 17 World Cup Diary – Day 7

Monday 21st October 2013

“Supergetti” and “roasted bread” are two new phrases I’ve learnt from the boys to describe what we know as ‘spaghetti’ and ‘toast’. That reminds me; does anyone know a situation where you get fed spaghetti and mince for breakfast? That’s part of the buffet meals we receive. It’s not even a Nigerian team request; this is part of FIFA’s sample menus for all hotels, which I find strange. The thought of some ‘supergetti’ along with my muesli and ‘roasted bread’ is just plain odd but there you go.

It was a pretty uneventful day today. We had our usual intense training this morning, then our pre-match meeting where we once again decided on the kits the team would wear, listened to the respective national anthems and checked the positions of the flags. Then we went off for the pre-match press conference at the stadium, which took as much time as it took us to get there. The stadium is very close to the hotel.

The team management decided to make a banner to show the Al Ain fans for their support after tomorrow’s game versus Sweden. We are off to Dubai to play the last group game against Iraq on Wednesday morning so they wanted to do something nice for the fans, which I think is a nice touch and will go down well. The thinking behind this movement to Dubai is that FIFA require all teams in the group to play their last games at the same time, and since there is only one approved stadium in Al Ain, two teams have to play in another stadium to satisfy this criteria. Two teams from those in Dubai will also come to Al Ain so they can have the same agreement.

It was a pretty uneventful drive into the ‘Little India’ of Al Ain until we brought to an abrupt halt on the road when someone that clearly received their driving licence from Oxfam reversed into the side of us. I was in a pretty big van; think the ‘A-Team’ style van so how this driver didn’t see us is beyond me.  We were close enough to the printers so I got out and left the drivers to deal with it. UAE traffic rules state that the police has to be called to every accident so they can provide a form. This form is important because no garage is allowed to touch a damaged car without it. Of course some do, but they’re not supposed to. So law abiding citizens need to stop at wherever the accident happened and call the police, who tend to be ‘relaxed’ at best of times. This means that most accidents end up causing a lot of traffic, especially in congested places because they block the road. So in effect, the probable cause of accidents is a previous accident.

I did see the most amazing thing on my travels though. I saw a car that when its doors were opened, projected the Al Ain team badge on the floor! It’s the car of the future! According to the owner, you can get any image you want projected. I’m thinking of getting one on my car and be the envy of all Man Utd fans worldwide.

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I found out something interesting today: Al Ain have three stadiums. That’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is the stadium that we play at (yes, I am a fully immersed Nigerian now. For this tournament only mind you), the ‘Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium’, has never been used by Al Ain. Legend has it that it was supposed to be officially opened by the late Sheikh Zayed (‘the father of the UAE’) but he unfortunately passed away before fulfilling this duty. For that reason, Al Ain have regarded this stadium as bad luck and the first team has never played there. Apparently they have been using their old stadium but have now built a new stadium due to be opened soon. Just a brief description of Al Ain. It is a very tiny town with only 350,000 or so people living there and only one professional football team. With three stadiums. I guess when money is no object…

Anyway, pretty chilled day, even with the car accident. The players are getting their 22hours rest before tomorrow’s match versus Sweden. There are even more bus loads of Nigeria fans coming from Dubai so it should be a cracking atmosphere. And look out for the celebration of the tournament. Whenever Nigeria score, the players go to one corner of the pitch, and pump both index fingers up, shouting ‘yes, yes!’ Apparently it’s the winning celebration of a WWE wrestler and seems to be picking up some momentum here already. I took the liberty of making a reference to that on the banner I got printed, so I hope it does become a movement or I’ll just look plain silly.