World Cup in London: Chile

Monday, June 28, 2010

Or: Futbol! Football with London's Chilean fans

Chile football fans, London

A Chilean flag was being merrily waved as I arrived at El Vergel to watch Brazil -v- Chile with Chilean fans.

The flag was soon tucked away, never to be seen again. The restaurant had long tables, all surrounded by folk eating empanadas and other Latin American fare.

It felt like a family occasion, almost like an episode of Brothers & Sisters. Hermanos y Hermanas, probably.

And just like Brothers & Sisters, the room had a matriarch, a game old lady who led the crowd in a chant of Viva Chile! Chile! Chile! She was banging on the table minutes later, and then the rabble rouser had everyone singing something that sounded like Pablo Chile-o!

But also like Brothers & Sisters, there was drama, with Chile attempting and failing to score, and ultimately, tragedy as Chile conceded three goals and crashed out of World Cup 2010.

Next: Football fatigue has kicked in, so it'll probably be a week until my next match for whoever it is in a semi-final.

World Cup in London: Ghana

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Or: Football with London's Ghanaian fans

Ghana football fans, London

A vuvuzeula greeted me on my way to watch Ghana -v- Germany with Ghanaian fans in Gold Coast, in Brixton.

When I arrived there, the vuvuzuela was joined by whistles, singing, chanting and cheeering from the fans of Ghana - accompanied by a very long queue to get in.

Sadly, the queue didn't shorten, so I, along with lots of others, decamped to another bar three doors down.

The carnival atmosphere continued with cheering, chanting and lots of shouting at the screen. In the last half an hour, practically every pass Ghana made got a cheer.

Not everyone shared in the fun: one woman sat reading a copy of Reveal. Another applied her blusher when Germany scored. I admire her committment to glamour.

When it was revealed that, in the other match, Australia had scored, you'd think Ghana had actually won the whole World Cup such was the excitement. And with the final whistle, Ghana, despite losing, were going through ,to the cheers of their London fans.

Next: Taking a little break from football, I'm returning next Monday with a match featuring either Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Chile or Switzerland.

Scissor Sisters @ Brixton Academy

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Scissor Sisters, live at Brixton Academy

I went to see Scissor Sisters play the first of two gigs at Brixton Academy last night. I have been a fan of them since they first came to Ireland 7 years ago. It was so ace to see a band that were multisexual, fun, amazing live, and mixed up pop, dance, disco, rockabilly with all sorts of emotions and feelings.

I have to admit, I have reservations about their second album and some of the tracks from their new album. I feel I want to like them much more than I actually do. So I approached the gig with some trepidation.

Happily, I loved it. Jake and Ana's energy on stage is so infectious, so electric and so powerful that it is hard not to go along for the ride. Ana's wonderful asides and quips had me laughing and loving her as much as I ever did.

The highlight for me was new song Invisible Light which turned the venue into a pulsing, thumping disco full of dance, joy and elation. And that's the Scissor Sisters.

World Cup in London: Slovakia

Monday, June 21, 2010

Or: Futbal! Football with London's Slovakian fans

Slovakia football fans, London

Yesterday, I, along with Geoff, went to the Czech & Slovak club in West Hampstead to cheer along Slovakia.

Slovak fans had gathered there to watch the match, and tuck in to platefuls of home-cooked food. Schnitzels, stews, goulashes and big slabs of cheese covered in breadcrumbs were all being served up to the hungry and appreciative Slovaks. For our part, we nibbled on Pepe Chrumky, peanut flavoured corn puffs. Intriguingly yummy!

To be honest, I think the Slovaks were there for food not football. There was very little cheering or chanting - admittedly, their team were losing badly.

I met Peter, a Slovakian guy from my German language class, and he didn't seem hopeful of a Slovakia victory. Sadly, he was proved correct, but the assembled fans didn't seem all that bothered -  dessert was being served.

Next: Honduras, if I can find any Hondurans. If not, Ghana.

World Cup in London: Denmark

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Or: Fodbold! Football with London's Danish fans!

Denmark football fans, London

I went to London's Danish Church near Regents Park yesterday to watch Denmark -v- Cameroon.

Small Danish flags dotted the building, with the fans gathered in the church's adjoining hall donning t-shirts, flags, and hats.

10 minutes in, though, Cameroon scored. "Oh Jesus Christ!", one woman exclaimed. Well, it was a church, after all.

Feeling the need to defend his nation, a Danish man said to his Italian friends, "We came fourth in Eurovision this year! Where were you?" Good point. He also tried to get them to chant "We are red, we are white, we are Danish dynamite", but they weren't playing ball.

Happily, the Danish team were and soon equalised to the roars and cheers of all present. One man donned a Viking helmet. Hurrah!

Denmark football fans, London

Half time coincided with the Dane's celebration of midsummer, which meant hotdogs, a bonfire, a man giving a speech and a sing-song. Sadly no sign of Tommy Seebach or Birthe Kjær, but the speech did seem to link X Factor and radical politics. Impressive.

More cheers and merriment followed when the Dane's took the lead, with the remaining half of the match a tense and exciting affair. I'm sure they were all saying their prayers after the final whistle, thankful for a very good result for Denmark. I was too, especially for a much more interesting time than my last foray with the Danes.

World Cup in London: Japan

Or: サッカー! Football with London's Japanese fans

Japan football fans, London

Yesterday, I watched Japan -v- Holland in the company of Japanese fans.

It was a game of two halves for me: firstly, I went to the Chutney & Lager to watch with people from the Japan Society. But, to be honest, they were all very quiet and didn't have a flag in sight.

So at half time, I moved on to Bincho Yakitori  in Soho where a downstairs room was full of Japanese fans, their friends, and even some Dutch fans.

The Japanese fans weren't taking the game very seriously - every shot against them received a nice applause and a little ripple of laughter. The laughter became chants when Japan pushed forward. One man got the whole room going, chanting Nippon! Nippon! Nippon! Well done that man. More singing and chanting broke out when Nakamura came on.

But, in the end, Japan ended the game in defeat. Not that the mild-mannered fans seemed to mind, they were smiling and laughing just as much as they had been during the game.

Robyn @ Heaven

Friday, June 18, 2010

Robyn, live at Heaven

Ace Swedish popstar Robyn played a wonderful gig last night in Heaven.

Robyn is very much the hipster's popstar of choice. She slipped out on stage with her hair all sticking up, wearing tights, a corset belt, a white bra and an old shirt. It looked a bit like she'd walked through a wardrobe and clothes fell on her. Somehow, it all worked wonderfully.

She played an ace set of tunes from her new album Body Talk and previous album Robyn. "I'm giving it my all", she sings in her new song Dancing on my Own. It's definitely true: she dances like a demon: hands flying, fists flailing, shoulder shimmying, head bouncing, hearts beating. There's not much panache, just unabashed joy and enjoyment. Halfway through, her hair had fallen down, such was the intensity of her dancing.

And then there's the brilliant bits where she drums and bangs on cymbals.

"She is tearing it up!", exclaimed a friend I was with. She certainly was, with her own ace dancepop and collaborations The Girl & The Robot and With Every Heartbeat, she had the audience reaching dance euphoria.

O'Spada at St Pancras Station

OSpada, live at St Pancras station

Last night, I saw newcomer Swedish band O'Spada play The Station Sessions at St Pancras Station. It is a giddy thrill to hear the St Pancras announcements in English and French - O'Spada continued the thrills with a short set of 80s funky-synthy tunes.

I liked O'Spada, despite their not-so-likeable name. The seven members of the band were in a true triangular schlager formation, with the 3 on the left wearing navy jackets and the 3 on the right wearing wine jackets. The lead singer, perfectly centred, wore gold.

I like these little touches.

O'Spada have played a series of gigs in London this week, so maybe they'll be taking off here. Check out O'Spada on myspace or O'Spada on twitter.

World Cup in London: Brazil

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Or: Futebol! Football with London's Brazilian fans

I went to watch Brazil -v- North Korea with Brazilian fans. My first choice of venue - Guanabara - was super-busy with long queues. Covent Garden was thronged with Brazilian fans so, like many others, I decamped to another bar - the Shakespeare's Head in Holborn.

Brazil football fans, London

Everyone was Brazilian tonight, even those who were not actually Brazilian. Brazil's very flattering yellow and blue jerseys were adopted with aplomb. One woman even applied fabulously fetching gaudy yellow, blue and green eye shadow.

The first half passed by without real incidence - the Brazilians were just chatting each other up: "You look like Lewis Hamilton," a pretty girl thrilled. "You have lovely hair," the man replied. "Can you say 'they are jealous' or 'they feel jealous'?", she asked, pointing at her male friends.

Brazil football fans, London

By the second half, with Brazil yet to score, the Brazilians fans were fretting frantically. One man shouted at the players to "shoota with the foota!", filled his glass with an energy drink, crushed the can and started gesticulating wildly.

His cheers worked, and the bar erupted in laughter, whistles and cheers as Brazil scored minutes later. The cheers and whistles continued with Brazil's second goal.

Brazil football fans, London

The Brazil fans started drinking and dancing, and barely even noticed North Korea's goal as they celebrated their first World Cup 2010 victory.

Next: A weekend of football with fans of Japan, Denmark and Slovakia. 

World Cup in London: Serbia

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Or: фудбал! Football with London's Serbian fans

Serbia football fans, London

After leaving 'Slovenia', Eseld and I hotfooted it to Battersea to see Serbia play Ghana.

Paya and Horse - London's first Serbian pub - was decked out in flags and  slightly odd artwork showing horses. The bar held a happy mix of actual Serbian fans and others there to watch the match. The fans here expected to win, predicting a score of 3-0, which they'd written on a blackboard near the dartboard.

The match, it has to be said, was pretty boring. We distracted ourselves by ordering food - Serbian cuisine is meat-tastic and comes in large portions. We ate ćevapčići - basically, burgers in a sausage form. Yum.

My favourite overheard quote of the day came from an English woman watching the match: "Are these Serbians tourists or are they real proper people?," she asked. I think she meant 'residents'. Meanwhile, the woman behind the bar explained that their portions needed to be large as Serbian men are very tall.

The several Serbians there were disappointed to have a man sent off and later to concede a goal. One man slammed his fist on the table with some force. It was the most dramatic thing to happen in the whole 90 minutes.

With the final whistle, the Serbians slopped home, defeated but at least suitably stuffed with Serbian sustenance.

Next: Brazil -v- North Korea. I'll be supporting Brazil.

World Cup in London: Slovenia

Or: Nogomet! Football with London's Slovenian fans

Slovenian football fans, London

Day three of World Cup in London took me (and my friend Eseld) to a bar called The Colonies near Victoria station.

Slovenia are making the most of their World Cup debut by advertising tourism in Slovenia, so the bar was decorated with flags and banners with the oh-so-slightly-camp Donna-Summer-referencing slogan: I FEEL SLOVENIA.

Initially, however, all was quiet with only a few people present. I hoped it wouldn't be a repeat of my last time watching with Slovenia. Some were wearing the trendy Slovenian football jersey but most were not adhering to the green dress code. One man wore a white shirt adorned with Slovenian flags. So far, so good.

As the game went on, the bar filled up with a jovial, fun atmosphere. I suspect the Slovenians didn't expect to win, as they chatted and joked with the match in the background.

That was until near the very end, when Algeria had a man sent off. Suddenly, it mattered. When Slovenia scored soon afterwards, the bar erupted in cheers and chants with everyone jumping and punching the air.

Slovenian football fans, London

Ten minutes later, Slovenia had won. Valiant Slovenia had arrived. The fans began singing and chanting and poured out onto the street, cheering and jumping and posing with flags for photographs.

Slovenian football fans, London

Today's matches were quite popular with a whole bunch of bloggers and photographs watching the matches with foreign fans - say hello to Simon & Angela.

World Cup in London: South Korea

Or: 축구! Football with London's South Korean fans.

South Korea football fans, London

I went yesterday to New Malden to watch South Korea play Greece.

Europe's largest expatriate South Korean community live in New Malden, with around 8,000 South Koreans  in the area.

On the train, I met a chap resplendant with flags and Korean insignia. He accompanied me to The Fountain bar where South Korean fans had gathered.

Min, a fine arts graduate, soon had a Korean flag painted on my face. Brilliant.

South Korean fans are good value. They cheer, they chant, they whoop and cry. With the merest momentum, they get into the game. Chants include something like "gay-a-mingo", something like "bissy korea" and something to the tune of Go West.

South Korea football fans, London

On top of all that, they had flags, inflatables, costumes, drums and percussion - in all, The Fountain was a riot of footballing fun.

My favourites were the man fully dressed in costume complete with a gong and the people who were dressed as football mascots.

South Korea football fans, London

Happily South Korea won the match to the joy of all present (except the one Greek man in the company of hundreds of Koreans).

Next: Balkan Balkan Balkan! Football with London's followers of Slovenia and Serbia.

World Cup in London: Uruguay

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Or: Futbal! Football with London's Uruguay fans

Uruguayan football fans in London

It's World Cup time, so I'm going to watch football with London's foreign fans, starting with Uruguay -v- France.

London has a very small Uruguayan community - something like 900 people. According to a man at the embassy, Zoo bar in Leicester Square (where I'd been with Danish fans) was the place to be. He wasn't going though: "too touristy".

Lo, as I arrived, two Uruguayan flags were draped over the door. Hurrah. Inside, a woman sold empanadas. I was in luck!

The small crowd there watched the match in a very polite way. Neither chants nor flag waving, no whooping nor hollering. Just standing, just watching.

To be honest, the match was boring and made me re-assess my plan to sit through hours of football.

At one point, a man tried to start a chant but to no avail. I salute that man.

Highlights for me were: the Uruguayan goalkeeper's fabulous yellow jump suit, meeting another foreign football blogger (hello Jo) and seeing a rather attractive man surrounded by a veritable harem of women (there were 6! One even sat on him). They were like his bodyguards.

The match ended in a dull draw, to the gallic shrugs of the few French people present. And as I left, the Uruguayan flags had gone and were replaced by a French tricolore.

Next up: South Korea -v- Greece in London's improbable Korean centre: New Malden.

Oh, it HURTS

Friday, June 11, 2010

HURTS, live at Dingwalls

I went to see the new, trendy, much-vaunted pop group HURTS last night in Camden.

They played a series of songs: dramatic, swooping, soaring, passionate, moody and urgent all come to mind as descriptors.

The lead singer's quite an intense performer - he focuses eagle-eyed on the audience, making arch gestures: a slight eyebrow raise, hand-clasp, subtle jaw clench, raised claw-hand, deep look to the ground.

It's all very one-step-short-of-losing-it and he-has-a-lot-of-internal-rage but suits the dramatic nature of some of their songs.

The band were all quite smartly attired wearing sharp suits, with the exception of the keyboard player who wore a t-shirt and braces. Just to be different.

And that was HURTS. Watch a short video I made here - apols about the sound quality, but you get nice visuals.