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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Planet Football

Stood in the rain at Braintree during a goalless and largely uninspiring first last week I did have one of those “what am I doing here moments”. This feeling was exacerbated by the fact that seven days previously I was watching another team in yellow beginning with B in rather more auspicious circumstances.
I’d taken advantage of London’s status as the capital of planet football to take a trip to Ashburton Grove to watch the International friendly between Brazil and Italy. Arsenal has been hosting Brazil ever since they moved to their plush new stadium over the railway from Highbury and the exalted setting of the Emirates certainly is worthy of the occasion.
Indeed in recent years London has begun to take advantage of its wonderfully rich mix of cultures and nationalities by regularly hosting international fixtures its neutral nature ensuring a good crowd of supporters from either side along with voyeurs like me.
With tickets cheaper than an Arsenal home game in the Premiership the opportunity to watch some of the best players in the world was too good to miss, and they certainly didn’t disappoint, both sides taking part with an attitude which suggested this was a friendly in name only.
This was reflected in the strength of the two teams with only injuries to stars such as Kaka preventing the best elevens taking the field. Reading through the pen pictures was like being given a roll call of the finest clubs in Europe, and Manchester City.
I sat back into my vast seat, (Arsenal seem to have taken on board the fact that the population is becoming more corpulent) and soaked up the fantastic atmosphere. Fans of both countries were unsegregated throughout the stadium and worked together to produce a carnival atmosphere in the run up to kick off. For once the scarves split between both teams seemed appropriate as they lined up for the national anthems, Italy strangely wearing white overcoats as though they wanted to acknowledge the stereotype of coming from a nation of ice cream salesmen.
Kick off saw both teams immediately revert to type, Italy fanning out in disciplined fashion carefully building from the back whilst on first reflection the Brazilians seemed to be going for the primary school model of all running around the ball. On further inspection, aside from two wide men it was clear that there was method in their madness, a circular pattern emerging which enabled virtuosos such as Ronaldinho to exhibit their silky samba soccer skills.
This tactic proved to be key to unlock the Italian back line, a defence splitting pass putting Elano through to clinically score past Buffon after thirteen minutes and put Brazil one goal to the good.
The key moment of the match came in the 26th minute. Pirlo the peerless Italian playmaker swung in a perfect cross from the right wing which his strikers did not make the best of. Brazil swiftly counterattacked and although Pirlo rang the length of the pitch to get back and defend he fluffed his clearance to enable Robinho to set off on a mazy run which ended with the perfect result to double Brazil’s lead.
The Italians came back into the game after half time but were left to vent their frustrations at the British contribution to the evening, the team of match officials led by Howard Webb who disallowed two Italian goals and ended up booking two of the Azzurri on a night that firmly belonged to Brazil.

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