Viva Espana

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hurrah for Spain winning Euro 2008, their first big tournament win for yonks. In celebration, and as the sun is shining, here's some of the best Spanish pop tunes.

Rosa, from 2002 Eurovision, and soon to represent Spain at the Eurovision Dancing Contest, singing her ace Más. Look at her go! High-kick-tastic!

Next, partly inspired by the lovely Spanish players Casillas and Fabregas, here are Nash with their two beautiful members.

Spanish pop classic Hijo de la Luna by Mecano given an even more latin twist.

Chenoa, who came third to Rosa in Spain's Eurovision selection, had the last laugh with Cuando Tu Vas, the Spanish summer song of 2002.

And finally, La Casa Azul with La Revolucion Sexual, one of the runner-up songs from this year's Spanish Eurovision selection.

Massive London map in a park

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I went to Greenwich yesterday where, as part of London Festival of Architecture, a huge map of London had been drawn on the grass of a park.

The outline of London had been drawn, and the Thames.

River Thames, as drawn on Central Park Greenwich

People were asked to place flags to mark their favourite picnic spots. These show Green Park. But it was clear that local is best with Greenwich Park easily being the popular park.

Green Park flags

Austria -v- Switzerland

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Last night, I went to the Austrian Cultural Forum for a movie mix of Euro2008 and Eurovision. The forum showed Eleven Minutes, which lasts 90 minutes - 2 45 minute sides: 4 films from Austria, and similar from Switzerland. At the end, the audience voted for their favourites.

The film-makers play with the theme of football, rather than the ball.

The films were very interesting: one explored Austrian attitudes to foreigners, another showed Austria's only black football team, and the final replayed the exuberant commentary from Austria's last footballing defeat of Germany (1978 - see below) contrasted with the monotone German commentary.

The Swiss films examined an Italian Swiss chap deciding whether to support Italy or Switzerland, a Spanish Swiss guy assessing his relationship with his father through football, and a Swiss guy trying to fall in love in Euro 2008.

Best of all, at 'half time' and 'full time', we were treated to Austrian wurst and beer.

In the end, Austria were the winners - just like in 1978. Listen to this guy, Edi Finger, he gets very excited.

Футбольный! Football with London's Russian fans

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh, those Russians...
The internet wasn't much help in finding London's Russian community - there isn't one, it seems. Lots of Russians live around Kensington and Knightbridge, so I decided to go to a Kensington bar in which a colleague had spied Russian fans last week.
On my way, I saw a woman and girl with a Russian flag. The woman had Russian flags painted on her nails. Brilliant! I, er, followed them for a while, hoping they'd lead to a bar with lots of fans. But, no, they went home.
Then, I saw a girl with a big blue foam hand. Could she be Russian? No, it turned out to be a Wimbledon accessory.
So, I headed to the bar, and found some Spanish, some not-bothered-folk, and 3 Russian blokes. Hurrah for them, my three Russian fans. They didn't have flags, but they did stand for the national anthem.
Russian football fans, London
But then Russia lost.
And, that is that. My odyssey to watch Euro 2008 with foreign fans is complete. I've seen lots along the way - passionate Austrians, nonchalant Swiss, fatalistic Romanians, chatty Greeks, unadorned Turks and patriotic Germans.
But, best of all, they were all Londoners.

Futbol! Football with London's Turkish fans

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tonight, I went to the Fenerbahce Social Club to watch Turkey play Germany. Situated on Stoke Newington High Street, it is surrounded by Turkish barbers, Turkish restaurants, Turkish travel agencies, Turkish cafés and Turkish football social clubs.

Oddly, however there weren't so many Turkish fans to be seen...

Turkish football fans, London

A large MEMBERS ONLY sign sits atop the social club's doorway, but happily nobody batted an eyelid as I walked in.

Lots of blokes sat around looking at two TV in two areas - one facing the door, one facing away. Nobody was dressed in Turkish colours (only me and a 4 year old boy wore red), and there were no flags. Call me camp, but I do like a bit of pomp and paraphenalia.

The fans watched the match in relative quietness, save for excitement with the Turkish goals - a bit like the Turkish team really... a bit boring except for some exciting bits.

Football ennui has kicked in (10 matches in 3 weeks), so I didn't pay much attention to the game. Instead, I saw:
  • a man ordering raki, which looks quite like milk
  • a trolley being wheeled around to firstly collect empty bottles, and to sell new ones. The bar was only a few feet away, so this was very generous service.
  • the place all but emptying on half-time for a fag break
  • a veritable cloud of smoke settling outside at half-time
So, that's one in the final. Next up: Spain -v- Russia, and I'm supporting with the Russians (although I secretly want Spain to win).

Futbol! Football with London's Spanish fans

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tonight, I went to London's little Espana off Tottenham Court Road to watch Spain -v- Italy. Costa Dorada was open, and full of football fans. Not everyone was Spanish, but the Spanish there were in full supporting voice.

Spanish football fans in London

Well, all except the couple who were snogging hammer and tongs under the TV screen.
At the beginning of the match, it was all very quiet, but they soon got into the swing of things, clapping, thumping the tables, chanting. I definitely heard an Olé or two and some other songs. The only things missing were a few bars of Viva Espana!
The place erupted with red, red and more red when the Spanish won.

So, that's the semi-finals sorted. Sadly, no Holland! Next up is Germany -v- Turkey, and I'm (hopefully) supporting the Turks.

Nogometni! Football with London's Croatian fans

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Last night, I had hoped to support Turkey, my team in the Lowculture messageboard Euro 2008 sweepstake.

I headed to Archway on the guidance of Time Out. But, yet again, their advice was wrong as the restaurant had no TV. The bloke in the Turkish shop down the road was not much help ("try the bar up the road"), and the place where the Euro2008InLondon blog guys were was fully booked. Drama!

So. I switched allegiance, decided to be Croatian, and hot-footed it to Chelsea's Cadogan Arms, where Croatians gathered during the last World Cup.

Croatian football fans, London
And there they were. Not lots, but a vocal and passionate few, singing Croatian football songs and chanting "Hrvatska!". I'd arrived in the last few minutes of the first half, but hadn't missed anything. The match was rather dull, save for a few exciting moments - to be honest, I was happily distracted by several hot Croatians.

The Croatians went ballistic with their almost-there last-minute goal - glasses flying, crazy jumping, blokes only hugging blokes. They were all visibly deflated by the penalty shoot-out end, however.

Croatian football fan, London

Male behaviour was noteworthy:
  • One middle-aged Italian bloke asked an attractive young woman where she was from. She was Bosnian. He proceeded to individually tell all his friends that she was Bosnian.
  • One non-Croatian bloke greeted his friend with "Fuck You!!!!!!" and a hug, and later shouted "Norman Foster!" into the crowd.
  • Another guy was grabbing the back and side of every guy that passed him. Lots of homosocial from the Croatians.
The result was disappointing, Croatia being the better team overall. But it means I can now support Turkey after all. So, any suggestions as to where I'll find Turks in London are welcome.

Next up:
Spain -v- Italy, and I'm supporting the Spanish.

Fußball! Football with London's German fans

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I was at the Jolly Gardeners bar near Vauxhall tonight, supporting the Germans. And it was packed - there were hundreds there, with a brash and cheerful atmosphere.

German football fans, London

Now, some facts about Germans:

they're very tall - I was hemmed in by six blokes at one point.
Whoever said Germans are all blondes is wrong - brown hair was the order of the day.

Every good pass the Germans made got a cheer, every save their keeper made was cheered, and the whole bar erupted in chants and cheering with Germany's 3 goals. The last few minutes of the game were tense, but with the greatest relief - see the video below for reactions.

German football fans, London

Ronaldo was the pantomime dame of the game, and his Oscar-winning dive received much derision.

Germany's not a noted musical nation, but these fans begged to differ (and so do I). Singing, singing and more singing! My favourites were:

  • SuperDeutschland! to the tune of My Darling Clementine
  • Da-da-dadada-dada-da-da-Deutschland!
  • Aus auf Deutschland, something is a doora! (which I'm reliably informed is about scoring goals)
  • Lu-Lu-Lu-Lu-Lucas! Podolski! (not about the lovely Lulu of Boom Bang-a-Bang fame)

Next up: Turkey -v- Croatia, and I'm supporting Turkey

Fotbal! Football with London's Romanian fans

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Yet another team I'm supporting loses. Last night, it was the Romanians. I went to a Romanian restaurant at 32 Old Bailey. The restaurant carefully segregated eating customers and drinking customers.

Romanian football fans, London

Happily for me, I was drinking next to Gloria & Leonard (like Leonardo with no 'o'). Gloria was not best pleased about the price of the beer, so went out and bought cans to drink from.

Gloria was a hoot, with a racuous giggle. At first, she declared she didn't care about the match. 'Let the king be the king', she said (I don't know either). Then, it turned out that she was a decathlete champion and crazy about sport.

Both came from Transylvania, and told me stories about Dracula and his castle (it's fake). And how in the 1980s, 1 million Germans lived in that part of Romania.

Romanian football fans, London

The Romanian fans were happily supporting Romania, but with the first goal against them, became fatalistic and gave up. One man stormed out immediately after both goals, fag in hand, slamming the door both times. Leonard started talking about not finding something in a google search - it was like he was announcing a funeral.

Happily, just then, comedy moment of the evening happened: the dessert trolley was wheeled around. You don't get that at Old Trafford.

So, in the end, the Romanians were out, but Gloria went off laughing, and so did I as finally, finally a foreign fan talked to me!

Fußball! Football with London's Austrian fans

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

ast night, I was supporting Austria. What felt like every member of the Austrian Club of London was in the Crown & Two Chairmen on Dean Street to cheer on Austria.

There was sausages, bread, mustard, Austrian beer, gurkensalat and my favourite Austrian drink almdudler (it's not orange, it's not cola, it's herbal).

A jolly Austrian chap was making his way around the bar painting everyone's faces red, white & red. It was all very jovial - until just before kick off when the Austrians starting booing the Germans. It also became very crowded, with 4 very tall men standing in front of me and nowhere else to go.

Austrian football fans, London
So, we decamped to a nearby bar - me, 2 Austrians, 1 German & an English guy. Austrians and Germans gathered in this bar, and it was altogether more sociable. The Austrians cheered as their team false-started, the Germans cheered as they scored their goal.

A German chap & an Austrian chap stood together, and had the crowd cheer for their respective teams. Ultimately, the Austrians lost and ended their Euro 2008, but it didn't really matter, they were all friends in the end.

Austrian football fans, London

PS: Just how orange is Alan Hansen?

Le Soccer! Football with London's Swiss fans

Monday, June 16, 2008

Last night, I was supporting the Swiss at London's Swiss Church which is in Covent Garden.

Swiss football fans, London
A church isn't the first place you'd think of to watch football, but the Swiss TV was on, and fans had gathered.

It was a remarkably gentle and good-natured affair. The Swiss's good shots were applauded politely, and likewise for their goalkeeper's saves.
  • The first Swiss goal was celebrated with flag waving and cheering, with one woman jogging on the spot and yodelling. The second goal was politely applauded, while a few people chanted "Hopp Schwiiz!"
  • My favourite player was Tranquillo Barnetta. More men should be called Tranquillo.
  • This Swiss Milk ad made me laugh also.

Podosfairo! Football with London's Greek fans

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Last night I was on Moscow Road to support the Greeks.

Initially, I went to Halepi, suggested by Time Out, but there was no TV. I asked the man in the next door restaurant (Zorba's), and ended up at Cafe Byzantium which had a TV complete with Greek commentary.

I expected the Greeks to be wild, passionate fans, so was surprised to find them all sitting around, drinking coffee and chatting.

Greek football fans, London
Only one chap was wearing football colours. One fashion highlight was a t-shirt emblazoned with a technicolour lobster.

Come half-time, and down 1-0, the Greeks piled outside, had a fag or five, coming back much more animated for the second half, jumping up and getting into a right flap when their off-side goal was disallowed.

Greek football fans in London

  • Whenever Greece took a corner or free kick, they stuck their arms out straight ahead of them and wiggled their fingers.
  • Greece's number 10 had the look of Apprentice Lee McQueen. I wonder what "that's what I'm talking about" is in Greek?
  • The crowd were very excited to see Greek number 8, Stylianos Giannakopoulos - aka Stelios.
  • They were laughing and loving the playful homoeroticism of a rough 'n' tumble tackle.

Voetbal! Football with London's Dutch fans

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Last night, the team in orange played the team in blue - just like last Monday, and the orange won again!

I went to Dutch bar De Hems in Soho to watch the match, but it was packed so I didn't get in.

Dutch football fans at De Hems, London

We then went on to a bar called the Golden Lion, which was a De Hems overspill. Lots of orange there too.

Dutch football fans, London

Highlights were:
  • The Dutch winning. They were so happy and smiley.
  • Learning "Head, shoulders, knees and toes" in Dutch. It goes something like 'hefte, showlders, k-nees an' ting'
  • Learning to say "nice legs" in Dutch - something like 'moy banen'
  • Meeting a very tall Dutch man with a big adam's apple. I had been told this would happen.

Calcio! Football with London's Italian fans

Monday, June 09, 2008

In 2006, I loved following World Cup matches in London with fans of the countries playing. I went to a bar in Chelsea with Croatians, a bar in Fitzrovia which was supposed to, but didn't, have Czechs, and a great Ukrainian social club.

This time round, it's Euro 2008: like Eurovision, but with less songs and more men in shorts.

Tonight I went to the Italian Cultural Institute. All Italy's matches are being shown, with the institute teaching us 'how to be Italian'. This involved drinking Peroni beer, Italian ice-cream and sorbet, and, er, Walkers crisps.

There weren't many Italians, except for one man who asked me for the time in Italian, a nice middle-aged old lady who clapped and tutted, and a fit young Italian guy (below) who was really into the match.
Italian football fan

There were also some rowdy drunk types who were supporting Holland, which was a bit ungracious.

Italy were trounced 3-0, by the Dutch, but won with fashion. Their azure blue kit (rather than the Dutch orange) comes about as it was a traditional colour of the dynasty which unified Italy in 1860.

3 Balkan maps: Slovenia by Fredi, Croatia by Klaus and Serbia by Marina

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I mostly travelled by train when in Slovenia, Croatia & Serbia, providing me with ample opportunity to ask fellow travellers to draw their countries.

On my train from Ljubljana to Zagreb, I asked Fredi to draw Slovenia for my collection. He did (in miniature), and a few minutes later, presented me with lots of tourist destination business cards "for my collection". I had absolutely no use for these, but it was a lovely gesture nonetheless.


On the long and slow train from Zagreb to Belgrade, I met Klaus who, despite the German name, was Croatian. I started speaking to him when, at the Serbian border, I thought I had to get off the train. I didn't, and Klaus, a fellow Eurovision visitor, set me right. Klaus drew Croatia, and apparently stole some land from Slovenia, he said with a giggle.


Later in the trip, Marina from Serbia joined us in the compartment. Marina studies in Berlin, and was amused but pleased by us Eurovision travellers. When I asked her to draw Serbia, she joked about whether she should be politically correct or not. I sighed with relief that she thought it a joke - she has included Kosovo in the map.


A Typical Belgrade Scene

Sunday, June 01, 2008

In Serbian, Belgrade is Beograd which means "White City" but in reality, it should probably be grey or concrete, as that's the prevailing hue.

I was wandering on my last day in Belgrade (to tell the truth, I was lost), and came upon this scene. It struck me as being very symptomatic of Belgrade.

Typical Belgrade scene

Typical Belgrade scene, explained

1. Lots of industrial architecture

2. This poster showing a man with a very impressive torso and chest was everywhere in Belgrade. As were men with impressive torsos and chests. Their military service has its positives.

3a & 3b. Cars, cars, cars. Belgrade is one big system of roads. The nicest place I found, however, had very few cars - Ada Ciganlija, the island / beach in the Sava River was just lovely.

4. Election posters.