I acknowledged earlier that the current set up does not produce the greatest games. The final people want to see is Europe v South America. Now wasn't this the previous competition. So here we have the team that finished 11th in the second half of the J League one match away from being named the best club side on the world.
The U.A.E. Premier League is in only it's second season. As such it is a remarkable achievement
that they have managed to host the FIFA Club World Cup at a time when the hosts are guaranteed a
place for a team from their country. This is a major coup, which unfortunately this year they have
failed to capitalise on.
My route this time took me to Muscat, Oman and then to Dubai, where a flight of 22 minutes saw me
arrive back in Abu Dhabi at 13.40 on Matchday 1.
The first difference I noticed was that this time there was a bus available for passengers to get
to the city centre. So after numerous enquiries I was sent outside to search for the elusive bus
Preparations for this tournament were somewhat easier than my last visit two years ago. The FIFA
website allowed me to purchase tickets, saving me the problems I faced last time when I arrived
unsure of how to obtain them, they even said they would deliver the tickets to my home address
before the tournament started .
The FIFA Club World Cup is about to take place in Abu Dhabi between 9th and 19th December. The
competition sees the champions of the six continental federations compete for the title and the
honour to wear the FIFA Club World Badge until the next Championship.
This will bring back memories of my visit in 2007 when U.
A rare occurrence for me - two days off! As I hadn't been to Osaka before I thought I would stay locally. The weather wasn't great, cloudy about 8 degrees with a cold wind. So I set off by foot for Osaka Castle.
As I wandered through the streets I noted the shape of the vehicles on the roads, they are increasingly becoming box like.
Off to Japan for my 5th Club World Cup and 4th visit to Japan, this time via China - must have been the cheapest flights on the dates I wanted.
So how did the teams get here. Well they won their respective Continental Premier Cup competition and the hosts provided their Championship winner.
At long last the FIFA Club World Cup tournament begins. 3,500 fans from Argentina have arrived and
4,000 plain clothed police boost the crowd to 22,000 for the first Semi Final.
After a promising opening when Estudiantes dominated possession the game had become lifeless, until
in first half injury time a free kick is pumped into the box, the Estudiantes forward clearly (to
me) was in an offside position and tries his best to get a touch on the ball.
I wasn't intending to come to the Final, but since I returned home two weeks ago I had kept an eye on the UEFA ticketing website and had been able to get tickets for every game played in the knockout stage whilst I was back at work.
I mentioned this at work, and explained that if I got a ticket I would be late for work on Monday.
Who would have thought it? Two weeks have passed since we set out on our own "Tour de France" and I heard in the last few days that all the Home Nations have qualified for the next round. Brilliant, who are Scotland playing?
I have struggled to keep up to date, (wifi in France isn't great) with things whilst we have been on the road, so maybe I missed something.
For the first time a conductor on the train checked our tickets. Looks like the strike might be coming to an end. Ivan and I showed the conductor our tickets while Steve checked the bins for his discarded coffee cup, in which he thought his ticket might be.
Later we discussed our future travel plans.
Once again we had to check the train timetables to ensure our train was running. It was, but it departed 40 minutes late. So far our journeys have been by TGV, but today it is an inter regional train which means a slower journey, which should take about six hours.
We have been spoiled by the efficiency of the TGV network, as it has made travelling easy and by booking months in advance we had some bargain prices.
The night before had been unkind to Ivan. As we left our apartment and headed for the earlier train he commented "Even the local tramp looks better than me."
Due to the strike the train was always going to be crowded so we thought of ways to find a seat. "We could sing English songs, that usually works!
The morning after the night before and we are having breakfast in Lille discussing events . We hear that the Germans have asked to march from the centre of Lille to the ground a distance of 5km. Steve's response to this "With tanks?"
We made our way to Paris by TGV and just had time for lunch, Croque Monsieur near Ivan's gym at République.
A tale of nine cities. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Well two weeks, nine cities and ten football matches as well as visits to some of Oscar Niemeyer's work, which I hope you liked.
Unfortunately I have to disagree with his quote from earlier, yes his designs are pleasing on the eye, but they do not take away the people's problems.
Last leg (!) of the journey, and a game for which I no longer have a ticket for. But would you believe I have had an offer of a wheelchair ticket.
The sole of my foot feels like those pieces of plastic with bubbles that everyone likes to pop. Except I am trying not to pop the blisters.
Today's background music. Kassbian, Klub Foot. Every time you hear Ahahaha, that's me taking another step.
So, first thing I did upon arrival in Curitiba was to check the distance from the stadium back to the bus station I am told it was 4km and takes one hour. I have 45 minutes, to get back.
I had felt something on the sole of my right foot over the last few days, at first it felt like a heat spot, itchy. Now on the bus I decided to have a closer look ... it looks like I have a couple of blisters forming. (You may have noticed I don't do photos of myself so I'll spare you from the evidence at this stage!
Arriving in São Paulo it actually looked like winter in Brazil for the first time. The sky was grey and on the bus (as always) it felt cold due to the air conditioning.
Decision time again. I had thought about going to the Football Museum first thing, partly because I thought there might be the opportunity of meeting someone who just happened to have a spare ticket.
Arrived safely at 8.a.m. Had to make a decision about what sights to see. Looking at the weather I saw it was cloudy...so I ruled out a visit to Christ the Redeemer.
I knew, with the crowds it could take all day, and the weather comes with no guarantees. So, from the airport I caught a bus straight to Niteroi, a town across the bay from Rio.
Caught the overnight bus from Fortaleza....just seven hours this time and arrived at 6 a.m.
Arriving in Natal as dawn broke it was clear they had heavy rain in the night. As it began to get light there were still grey clouds overhead.
Now I needed to sort out how I was getting to Recife for the game at 1.
Well, I went for the bus, waiting where I thought it was going from at the main bus station on the platform as stated on my ticket. With only ten minutes before departure I checked where fellow passengers were going - none were going to Brasilia!
Found someone who worked at the bus station and they confirmed the bus was due to depart from another bus station, they wrote the address down and sent me towards the taxi rank with a bit of paper.
Well four years since the last World Cup, so it is time to do it all again. Holding down a job so I can pay for all of this, means that I can make the first two weeks (or so) of the competition. (Who knows in 4 years time?). Obviously I would love to be able to go travelling for two months (like some I know.
Having just witnessed my ninth and final match of the tournament, I thought I should look back at
my experiences during this trip.
Before I set off I was aware of the negative publicity, but as a football supporter and traveller,
I don't pay too much attention to people who consistently look for easy stories to create
Today I have a relatively short train journey taking me from Lviv to Kiev, only nine hours.
So I thought I could use the time to understand the rules UEFA have issued to decide how group
placings are decided in the event of teams finishing level on points.
a) Higher number of points obtained in the matches played between the teams in question.
Arriving in Lviv, immediately asked for help to get to accommodation. As ever there were volunteers
at the train station who seemed startled and surprised to see you.
They pointed me on the direction of trolleybus No. 9. (I had already problems with this address as
on the google map showing directions it highlighted a completely different address to the one
Arrived at the train station to see another new train, unfortunately that was not the one
travelling to Lviv at 13.31. Instead it was back to normal, and the comforts of a third class
Sat next to two Ukrainians who invited me to play cards, and quickly got talking about football and
life in their country.
Decided to go for a curry after midnight to kill time before catching the 02.54 train to Kharkiv.
Would you believe it, curry house closed!
So in the end found somewhere else and dashed across town in time to get the train from Kiev.
Successfully negotiated the antiquated locker system and caught that train.
The day after the night before. As the whole of Ukraine is chanting his name I decided to dedicate
the day to finding out more about him.
Walking the streets of Kiev I saw they had already erected statues and plaques in honour of his two
goals last night.
Â© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.
Managed a quick getaway from Kiev Airport, once again making use of the free transport available
from the airport with match tickets on the day of the game, catching a bus and then managed to
catch the majority of the England v France game in the Lucy pub (translates to Lucky in
English, the horseshoe gives you a clue).
The train from Warsaw was packed with Spanish supporters, although the wearing of Spanish club
shirts helped identify the locals.
Gdansk is unusual for Poland in that it doesn't have a square as it's centrepiece - it has Ulica
Dluga (The Long Market). It feels like another step back in time with merchant houses from the 17th
century lining both sides of the street.
Spent Saturday sightseeing mainly around the old town in Warsaw. Here it is very much a case of
what you see is what you get, a point highlighted by a beggar outside the Central Station with a
sign "Money for Beer".
The exception to this may actually be the old town, with its cobbled streets and buildings
appearing to date from 1700.
Arrived in Warsaw on the morning of the opening game to bright sunshine in contrast to the pouring
rain the previous night as I left Nottingham.
Greeted by people offering accommodation at the airport. With all the problems I had booking
somewhere to stay I may need them later.
Now coming towards the end of my tour of Ukraine, I thought it was time to discuss what the Ukraine
has to offer.
Before the tournament started there was plenty of bad publicity. Now I believe that the reason
there are not as many supporters here as normal is the ridiculous prices being charged from the
outset by the local hoteliers.
After wandering around Kharkiv during the afternoon cooling down with ice creams and then thunder
and a little rain, the main aim of the afternoon was to find somewhere to watch the evenings
Beer garden, unfortunately the weather ruled that out.
YouTube video from the African Cup of Nations held in Ghana earlier on this year.
This time Cameroon fans get behind their team....
Video by Ross Clegg
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Further video from the African Cup of Nations held in Ghana earlier this year.
Loin cloth, full body painting and that African beat.....
Video by Ross Clegg
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After the final Gabon group match in Libreville six of us went to a nearby restaurant in the dimly lit night. Though it was hard to read the menu, there seemed to be a lot of options.
We called the waiter over and he explained that the restaurant's speciality was wine.
There were four items on the food menu, and two of them were off.
As there is no football today I thought I'd send you a few postcards from Kiev. For anyone that
didn't receive theirs in the post, here they are!
All these were taken today and you will note there is almost no football involved.
Â© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile
Euro 2012 football
I mentioned earlier that I would try and find my way to any local games taking place, my quest
started the moment I arrived at my hotel where I asked for their help in checking the fixtures. I
believed there were two games taking place in Dubai, and that the following morning there would be
camel racing at 7a.