to Portugal may seem excessive on any normal day
was no normal day and nor was it a normal trip.
those people that have been asleep for the past two weeks there
is a certain football competition going on in Portugal at the moment
- Euro 2004 has landed and I was lucky enough to win a ticket to
the England Vs Switzerland game.
new stadiums are just the tip of the iceberg for the months, no
years, that the Portuguese hosts have put into this competition
and I was definitely up for a bit of live action.
(Travelling to Coimbra in Portugal)
never profess to be a football expert - lets face it the offside
rule has always been a little blurry. So this was going to be my
first international match and why not make it a big one? A crucial
Group B match that could have been the end of England's Euro 2004
and campaign - I was not alone in my apprehension as I began my
I say a day trip, I really do mean a whole day. It is just under
800 miles from Gloucester to Coimbra stadium - possibly the longest
distance I have ever travelled for an event. Leaving my overnight
stop in Crawley for Gatwick at 5 am it did cross my mind that seeing
Beckham and his buddies was probably the only reason people would
go to hot and sunny Portugal for just a day - lets face it you cannot
see many sights when you're only in the country for 12 hours.
obviously not alone travelling to Portugal on Thursday, June 17.
Our flight was delayed by two hours due to the sheer volume of fans
flying to Porto that day - runway space was at a premium and two
hours was apparently a short time to wait for a slot.
for the Airbus A300 flight full of England fans I was travelling
with, the anticipation of the day ahead only served to make the
delay give everyone more time to predict the scores, scorers, man
of the match and where they may be sitting (My guess was England
2 Switzerland 0).
flight finally departed just after 9.30am and arrived in Porto,
Portugal, at 11.45am.
road to Coimbra
there we were herded into coaches for the one hour 30 minute trip
to the Cidade de Coimbra (Coimbra stadium) and the big match.
university city of Coimbra is a picturesque location centred around
the ancient university - the first and for some time only higher
education establishment in the country. The first impression you
get of the city is of a riverside area where trade, traffic and
the railway play important roles. The downtown area is a hub of
great energy, hustle and bustle, where Rua Sofia and Rua Ferreira
Borges represent the very heart of the neighbourhood.
I arrived I saw that the city had been flooded with red and white
- with the Swiss also playing in red and white Coimbra looked like
a veritable candy stick! I have never seen so many football fans.
The stadium has a capacity of 30,000 and, with the city having 150,000
residents, the population had increased by a fifth. And with a predicted
20,000 England fans descending on Coimbra we were expecting to hear
many renditions of Three Lions.
not wait to get into the stadium and, after stringent security checks
including the removal of sunscreen, water bottles and flag poles,
I entered the ground to be confronted with the imposing glass frontage
of the stadium - the result of a refurbishment finished last October.
yet more checks I was finally in. Block 21, Row D, Seat two - to
my delight, my seat was four rows from the front. The match was
not due to kick off until 5pm and, an-hour-and-a-half before that
time, eager fans (me included) were already waiting in anticipation
of the first glance of their heroes.
was 30 degrees and getting hotter - this was going to be exhausting
for both the players and the fans! And what an atmosphere in the
stadium. England flags advertising affiliation with every England
club you could imagine covering three-quarters of the barriers surrounding
the expertly-groomed pitch.
South West was well represented with Cheltenham, Bristol and Swindon
clubs among the sea of flags.
noise was quite incredible too. As the countdown to the game continued
so the support for both teams grew with chairs the main instrument
- sounding out the war cry for both teams.
then it arrived - the moment everyone had been waiting for. Both
teams appeared on the pitch for the singing of their country's national
anthems ahead of kick-off.
the first strike of the match ball so the nerves began to set-in.
The opening 15 minutes were nail biting for the passionate England
fans with much of the possession inside the England half. England
fans were on the edge of their seats, willing Sol Campbell and fellow
defenders to "get it away," "kick it," and then
rather unexpectedly "shoot."
(Action from the England Vs Switzerland game)
the 23rd minute, England's first proper attack saw an expertly placed
cross from Michael Owen find Rooney or should I say 'ROOOOONEY!'.
Elated England fans could hardly contain their excitement as the
young striker headed the ball home and put England into a 1-0 lead.
rest of the half was somewhat uneventful until three minutes before
half-time when the England faithful held their breath as England
conceded a free kick just metres away from the penalty box.
in a change of fortunes for England, the Swiss failed to steal the
lead and our lads went into half time ahead. The crowd continued
its support for both sides and the break signalled a retreat to
the bar for non-alcoholic refreshment.
were again looking tense for England with some sloppy defending
in the opening of the second half. But on the 60th minute Switzerland's
strength was depleted as Swiss defender Bernt Haas was sent off
after picking up two yellow cards in ten minutes.
that moment the England fans picked up the tempo. A group of Swiss
fans quickly removed a 'Go home - Try cricket' banner that had been
placed to antagonise England fans earlier in the match.
continued his man-of-the-match worthy play when, in the 70th minute,
his shot ended up in the net via the post and Swiss goalie Jorg
elation came when, on 82 minutes, Stephen Gerrard wrapped up England's
victory with a third goal.
a game. England were on top and the fans were ecstatic. As I began
my long journey home the smile on my face and on thousands of England
supporters still singing in support of their team made me realise
why people do go to great lengths to see these games - and boy was
it worth it!
by Julia Causton