VIEW FROM THE PRESSBOX: Wales fans have had a great time, they’ve drunk France dry, and now they get to go home. Meanwhile, after more than a month, our tame football hack is counting the days to the end of Euro 2016
The Wales fans have been singing “Please don’t take me home” everywhere they’ve been. After a month of late nights, uncooperative footballers, rude waiters and stress, Hack is homesick. I have my own version of the lyrics: “Please take me home!”
Still, Hack is better off than one Wales fan he met on the tram to the stadium in Lyon for the Portugal game. Let’s call him Steve. Steve works for Kellogg’s, and shouldn’t be here. His boss refused his request for leave to come out for the semi-final. His boss is English. Steve came anyway. And he doesn’t know whether he’ll still have a job on Monday. If he’s sacked, Hack may start a campaign to have him reinstated…
Wales fans are no fools though. Hack met a group in a bar before the game who were trying to source tickets for their 58-year-old friend. A local (St Tropez tan, Aviator shades) had offered them a pair at 500 euros. The Wales fans wouldn’t go above 400. And they demanded to see his passport.
You didn’t need to check his passport to tell who Portugal’s biggest threat would be in the game itself though. Cristiano Ronaldo has made few friends at this tournament with his diving, complaining, refusing to swap shirts, throwing a reporter’s mic into a lake and criticism of heroic Iceland’s “small mentality”.
But last night was his Perfect Day. He scored the goal which set his nation on the way to the Euro 2016 final, earned bragging rights over his Real Madrid team mate (rival) Gareth Bale, and to top it all off his arch enemy Lionel Messi was sentenced to prison. This must have been like winning the lottery for Ronaldo. Afterwards, he took his victory in typically understated fashion, talking at length about the “self-sacrifice” and “humility” (!) he has had to show to reach this stage of his career. Hmm…
By this point Hack was beginning to feel like he was hearing things. He certainly felt like he was seeing things earlier in the evening when someone appeared to be taking remote control of his laptop, clicking on all sorts of links on web pages without Hack lifting a finger. Has Hack been hacked? His colleagues gave him little sympathy when he relaid his concerns in the mixed zone later. Tournament fever they called it. Paranoia. “Who said that?” Hack replied.
The Welsh were not singing much by the end of the evening. Although they did pipe up gleefully when they made a rare sighting of two Scots in a bar, singing the Scottish national anthem at them with gusto. Many of the Welsh, stuck in Lyon with nowhere to stay, slept under their flags in the square in front of the station. Hey, it was warm enough. One of them also pissed on a bollard. Next morning, Hack saw Stuart Pearce sitting on it…
Wales and their fans have helped make this tournament. Along with the Icelandics (“HUUH”) and Northern Irish (“Will Grigg’s on fire”) they have been the soundtrack to it all. Though Hack feels most sorry for Iceland, who were crushed by the French and even had their grunty Viking handclap chant nicked by the locals. The cheek!
Still, from someone in Vietnam, Hack heard tell of a group of streetkids being seen doing the “HUUH” down an alley in the middle of Da Nang. UEFA can’t buy publicity like that.
Hack wonders who those kids will be supporting in the final. Ronaldo probably. The Portuguese poser says he wants to cry “tears of joy” at the end of this tournament. Most Welsh fans probably do hope he’s sobbing by then. But not from joy.
Either way, he’ll still have a job. Good luck Steve.
- Hack’s previous column from Euro 2016 can be found here. Their identity is a closely guarded secret. We asked a UEFA delegate, but they weren’t saying who Hack is, butthey suggested that we follow this Twitter feed @pbsportswriter
- As with all authored pieces on sportsjournalists.co.uk, the views expressed here do not represent the views or policy of the SJA. Readers are always welcome to post their comments on the content of this column and the rest of the site
- The SJA is the largest member organisation of sports media professionals in the world. Join us: Click here for more details
FORTHCOMING SJA EVENTS
- Thu Dec 15: SJA British Sports Awards, sponsored by The National Lottery