All Pete’s fault. His Soapboxes extolling the virtues of Euro 2008 struck a chord. Leaving work today (Abu Dhabi Saturdays are not days off for everyone), I was asked – as usual – if I’d be watching tonight’s footie.
And as usual, I replied: “No chance. I cannot find a channel showing it and don’t fancy going out to catch it.”
The colleague didn’t let go this time. Finally, here was someone who wanted to explain how easily I could set things right – if I wanted.
So, an hour or so later, I went in search of a satellite card that would give me Holland v Russia (this link takes you directly to the highlights flagged in the YouTube clip), and the games to follow. I’d helped myself to a wind-down glass of wine by then so taking the car anywhere, in a country where driving with the least trace of alcohol equals jail, was not an option.
But a helfpul man in an electrical supplies shop down the street pointed me in the right direction. Soon I was in a gold and white cab heading a mile down the main road to a cluster of shops, any of which I was told would help me out.
Keeping the taxi waiting, I entered the first shop I saw, and minutes later walked out again clutching a card that had cost me 220 dirhams, just over £30. The cab, waiting time and a ride back home included, was barely £2 even with a very generous tip.
It took a while to navigate the additional channels it brought, but by 10.45pm local time – kick off – I was watching the game with Al Jazeera’s Arabic commentary.
And what a game. Pulsating end-to-end stuff from the start, with fabulously accurate passing, scintillating movement, great shots and saves, super goals, intelligent and honest refereeing from the Slovakian Lubos Michel and, in the end, a deserved 3-1 Russian win (deserved, that is, despite the absurd antics of the Moscow Amateur Dramatics Society in search of free kicks, penalties and cards – yellow/red variety, not satellite – for Dutchmen).
So I have changed my mind. Maybe international football is for me, after all. Or maybe it’s just that England’s absence from Austria and Switzerland is as important as some are saying.
Any chance of seeing one or two of these marvellous players in our red and whote stripes? Thought not.