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Fans' nerves exposed during England game

23 June 10 20:47
England fan in South Africa

Alexis Akwagyiram, Rich Mix centre, east London

The tension at the start of the game was palpable.

As England pushed and probed early on, so the crowd of about 200 people - mostly men - quietly watched a big screen at an east London cultural centre.

Almost universally hunched and motionless, their faces were illuminated by the screen which transfixed them.

Early on there were boos when John Terry touched the ball, but a crunching tackle from the former England captain brought resounding applause.

Ahead of kick-off the prevailing mood in the room - one colourfully decorated with the many flags whose nations are competing for the World Cup - was summed up by George Alvin, a 23-year-old student at the London College of Fashion.

"Before the World Cup I was expecting a lot because of the amount of quality there's supposed to be in the team. I haven't seen it yet," he said.

But, as the tempo of the game increased, so did the volume. Whenever a string of passes were completed, the audience clapped and cheered in appreciation.

And when Jermain Defoe scored shortly after 20 minutes, the onlookers rose as one to jump up, fists clenched, and hug each other.

But, as any England fan will know, nothing is certain.

And, when an effort forced goalkeeper David James to make a diving punch shortly before half-time, a collective gasp gave way to a wave of relieved cheers.

Lizo Mzimba, Glastonbury Festival, Somerset

For a few hours this afternoon this huge festival of music was transformed into a festival of football, with fans gathered in front of Glastonbury's main Pyramid Stage for this crucial England match.

The crowd numbered 100,000 people - almost certainly the largest number of England supporters together in one place for the game, and more people than would be able to fit into the stadium in South Africa.

Some of the world's biggest music stars, including Muse and Stevie Wonder, will be appearing here over the next few days. But it's almost inconceivable that any of them will get as big a reaction, as when Jermain Defoe's goal hit the back of the net - with deafening cheers from the thousands of fans.

England flags were waved in the air. Even the odd vuvuzela was blown in celebration.

The crowd stood in nervous anticipation throughout the tense remainder of the match - booing when a Wayne Rooney goal was disallowed, but roaring with delight when Joe Cole was brought on. And at the final whistle, relief was combined with sheer pleasure as they saw England go through to the next round.

For thousands here, many crucial elements have fallen into place. Huge bands are performing, the weather is forecast to be hot and dry and England are now in the final 16. For so many, this is the start to a perfect anniversary Glastonbury.

Vanessa Barford, Westfield shopping centre, London

You could be forgiven for thinking Westfield shopping centre in west London would not be England football fans' first choice of venue for the big game.

But the small cluster of supporters lingering in front of six small screens in the main atrium were not complaining.

"I considered calling in sick but thought my manager would click. My boss let me change the time of my breaks and combine them to get 90 minutes off," said Malachi Johnson, a 23-year-old sales assistant at Next.

"Admittedly there's not much atmosphere, but we'd rather be here than in the pub - they are packed and we'd be tempted to have a pint while we are on duty," added his colleague, 23-year-old Jermaine John.

Others had simply stopped to catch up on the score.

"I had half an hour before my next appointment so I thought I'd pop in to do some shopping and see how England was doing," said acupuncturist Katie Scampton, from West Hampstead, London.

But although a few fervent fans - mostly local workers - were glued to the main screens, the rest of Westfield could not boast the same audience.

Some savvy shoppers saw the football frenzy as an ideal opportunity to beat the crowds.

"We came down to London to go to the Houses of Parliament, but we knew England was playing and thought it was a good chance to do some shopping while it was less crowded," said Chris Tolley, 51, from Walsall in the Midlands.

But most of the shops were decidedly deserted.

"Normally there would be three times as many people in here on a Wednesday afternoon," said Shona Harris, a beauty assistant at Debenhams. "I guess the British are pretty patriotic."

Judith Moritz, Kellogg's, Trafford Park, Manchester

For the staff at Kellogg's in Manchester's Trafford Park there was no need to stay in the office whilst England played Slovenia.

For once, the cornflakes and rice krispies would have to wait, as office staff left their desks and trooped downstairs to watch the game on screens erected on the ground floor of their company headquarters.

Six hundred staff work here, and all were given the opportunity to take the afternoon off to watch the game. It's not that unusual a gesture for the cereal company, which operates a flexible working system anyway.

During the summer, staff are able to take Friday afternoons off if they've already worked their contracted hours for the week, and to accommodate the World Cup they've been able to leave the office early and catch up on work another time.

Production of the company's cereals hasn't been stopped at all, but production-line staff have been able to watch matches in the works canteen.

On Wednesday more than 100 staff chose to clock off for the football, and the atmosphere in front of the big screen was lively and vocal - though perhaps more professional than may have been the case if they'd gone down to the local pub.

There were plenty of "ooos" and "ahhhs" whenever a near-miss happened, and when the goal went in, in the first half, the crowd lifted off its feet.

The disallowed Rooney goal, early in the second half, added to the electric atmosphere. The Kellogg's staff really seemed to enjoy the chance to watch the game together, instead of making excuses to slope off home early.

At full time the crowd were elated. With future matches scheduled for weekends, the staff here won't gather again in the same way to watch the action together. But you can bet that football will continue to be the main topic of office conversation whilst England continue their World Cup campaign.

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