I’m not sure I really expected to complete articles about all eight groups in the space of four days – especially after spending the previous week doing exactly that at work – but it was good to get even slightly into the swing with a couple and I hope they whiled away a few seconds for one or two of you. At the risk of appearing somewhat self-regarding, I thought I’d quickly explain what you can expect from these pages in the next few weeks – there’s a little intro in my first ever post, but perhaps it’s worth expanding upon.
So, simply put: Until Friday, June 18, this blog will come from London, UK – and as such it’ll be pretty reactive, responding to situations and matches as they’ve occurred. If it stimulates some thoughts or discussion, fantastic! I might even try my hand at a minute-by-minute or two, most likely sometime after Saturday, hoping that a few of you will join me. And next Tuesday I’ll be joining forces with those exceptional folk at The Real FA Cup (link to the right), aiming not to overly devalue the currency their excellent podcast already holds.
Last Seat on the Plane will be based in South Africa for the final 23 days of the tournament, and a little beyond. Starting in Cape Town on 18th, I expect to attend Portugal v North Korea on Monday 21 – before a segue along the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth, where Slovenia v England lies in store on Wednesday 23. It’s quickly back to the Cape a day later for Cameroon v Holland – and then, on June 26, I journey to Johannesburg to begin a knock-out stage schedule that daunts as well as delights. Three second round games, two quarter-finals and the final itself (all in Jo’burg and Pretoria) is the sum of it – and I’ll be endeavouring to keep in touch both during and after each game using words and photos, producing some feature-length pieces along the way.
The semi-finals will be watched from, or around, Livingstone in Zambia – we all need a bit of R&R, right? Having played a couple of semi-serious football matches in Zambia a decade or so ago, seeing some things that have stayed with me ever since, I suspect this few days might involve plenty worth remarking upon.
Amid all this, I travel with an eye for a story. This blog will, for its final few weeks, describe the World Cup as perceived at first hand through my eyes – but also expects to follow up on anything interesting it discovers locally and listen to the tales others have to tell. It’s almost a cliché to say it, but the way football is enmeshed in other, wider South African issues is of particular interest to me – and has been ever since studying the novels of JM Coetzee for a dissertation five years ago. If anybody has requests, ideas, suggestions etc for angles worth pursuing I would be fascinated to hear them.
At different points I’ll be travelling with friends – a couple of whom are journalists themselves with fine football minds – and perhaps they’ll drop in here now and again, too. Hopefully I’ll be linking up with my aforementioned podcast comrades from South Africa, too, technology permitting.
Bit of a serious post! It’s been a long World Cup Eve. But I think a little raw info is no bad thing so that you know where we’re coming from. My own credentials? Full-time job is that of reporter for Arsenal Football Club, primarily player interviews and similar features. That won’t colour this space too much – although there’ll be times when insights I’ve gained from players and others around the game might prove interesting, and there’s a reasonable chance I might catch up with one or two relevant figures in South Africa.
A World Cup bogged down in parochial concerns, though, would be one wasted. It’s particularly exciting that the worldwide dialogue between journalists, fans, those of us who are somewhere between the two for the next month, and even those who aren’t ‘football people’ (awful phrase), is going to be so vibrant over the next month. There’ll be more opinions, tweets and blogs worth reading than ever before. If these pages can play even the slightest part in the conversation, then they’ll have done their job. Have a wonderful World Cup, everyone.