With the FIFA WWC 2019 being played at home in France, I thought I would write a diary of my travel adventures and games attended during the tournament.
For my 3rd game, I had to travel from Montpellier to Rennes, a journey that is 917 km
So. it was another very early wake up call, slightly hungover and an Uber to get to the airport for the early flight to Paris Orly. Then, another flight to Nantes, transfer from Nantes airport to the train station and then a train ride from Nantes to Rennes via Redon.
Luckily enough, all those trips went smoothly and I reached Rennes around 12 pm. The biggest problem was carrying around my hand luggage all over the town while I was doing some shopping and eating lunch. I also met a supporter to give her a few panini stickers.
She was with a supporters group whose members don’t really like me so she had to come on her own! One of those fans has threatened to beat me up since 2011 when I defended the national team’s manager’s decision not to select a player due to off-the-pitch problems. I will come back on this in the book i’m currently writing.
Then, I went to the rendezvous point for the media shuttle. I was the only passenger and I asked the driver if we could wait for my colleague who was on a delayed train from Paris. The driver kindly agreed and I went to pick up my mate at the station.
In the end, it was only the two of us on the shuttle bus and we made it with plenty of time to the game. Scotland v Japan was interesting with the Arsenal connection (Little, Evans, Beattie) plus our ex-manager Shelley Kerr.
Japan won 2-1 with Scotland, again, waking up when 2-0 down in a repeat scenario of the England game. The Scotland players were still in good spirits in the mixed zone as they knew they still had a qualifying chance.
That mixed zone was a mess actually. It was way too small. They are all divided in three parts, first the TV rights owners, then radio and then then the free-for-all written press.
Because the first two had took up the majority of space, our mixed zone was packed. With players from both sides coming out at the same time, you ended up with a Japanese players stopping by and a swarm of Japanese journos pushing you against the metal barrier. It was not a comfortable situation and you had to fight to extract yourself from the masses.
I did manage to get a few answers out of our new signing Jennifer Beattie. There was a nice moment when I called, asking her to stop and answer a few questions and she recognised me straightaway and asked ‘how are you?’ I welcomed her back to the club.
The mixed zone principle is simple; the players go through it, journos ask players if they want to answer their questions, they can say yes, no or just walk past you.
The France and England players were quite distraught when they got eliminated and decided not to stop. Certain journos thought it was unprofessional, but I still remember one of the France players who started to cry in the middle of her interview after she had missed the decisive penalty against Germany in 2015.
After all this, you get back to the Stadium Media Centre where you fill up your match report and quotes. And then we went back to town on the media shuttle, this time with three of us as a Japanese reporter joined us on the coach.
Then, it was back on the train to Paris to have a nice night at home and get my laundry cleaned and ironed.
Games attended so far: 3