This was it, the culmination of my 5 month journey, finally I’d arrived in Manaus, met a bunch more journalists, shipped the bike home, and it was time to become an England fan! And then we lost to Italy.
But no problem, not a huge surprise, England can still qualify (we want to finish 2nd in the group anyway), and we had a cracking couple of days in the jungle! Here’s a few things we got up to…
The Ambassador’s reception
The British Consulate and Embassy teams across Brazil have been a massive help to me throughout the #SambaCycle, so a huge THANKYOU to everyone involved, and when they asked if I’d attend some events they’re holding in each of England’s host cities to tell their guests about my journey I of course said yes, it’s a privilege to be invited, but also the least I can do to give a little favour back as thanks.
The do in Manaus was on the morning of the game and to be honest I was most excited about meeting the Walk To The World Cup lads there, having followed their adventure avidly throughout my own travels! Also in attendance were Alex Ellis, the British Ambassador to Brazil (who I met before in BH), the mayor of Manaus (who now loves Roy Hodgson after their falling out last year), Greg Dyke, the FA Chairman (who was lucky not to get a piece of my mind about his awful plans for ‘League 3’), Sir Tim Rice, the legendary lyricist who’s work includes the best movie ever The Lion King, and Sky Sports buffoon/pundit Chris Kamara.
Check out this superb BBC video about their journey.
If you have no idea what I’m on about, watch this!
England v Italy
Massive game between two great footballing nations, 7,000 England fans, only a few hundred from Italy, but to our surprise most of the Brazilians were supporting them too, partly a cultural thing but also due to their grudge against Woy’s “we don’t want to be drawn in Manaus” comments, and so it made for an incredible atmosphere in a beautiful stadium on a warm (but not stifling – no excuses) evening in Amazonas.
I was so up for it, after my looooong journey to get here, after a day of beers, after the locals booed our players, after our equaliser and flashes of great football, but it just wasn’t our night – gutted when we lost. Pirlo was class, I enjoyed watching him play. But I don’t accept England defeats lightly, and frankly don’t think this is a great Italian team, so I wasn’t as upbeat afterwards about our performance as many England fans. However, we all came to enjoy the World Cup and so a couple of post-match beers later back in Praca do Eldorado and the place was jumping with an England/Italy/Brazil party – the hooligan days are long gone, our supporters did us proud.
Amazon boat tour
After a late, boozy night we had to be up early to join this day trip at 7.30am, ouch. I’d pretty much lost my voice from all the chatting/shouting/chanting the previous day but was quite content to keep quiet and just take in the sights, which included the Amazon River meeting of the waters, a floating community, a bizarre petting zoo, swimming with pink dolphins and visiting an indio village. Very touristy, but a decent day out.