Words by Mark Raven
Pictures by Liz O'Brien
A v Portugal (Faro) 18.2.2004
Liz and I were up at 4.40am this morning to catch the 6.20 flight to Lisbon then on to Gatwick arriving just before 11am, in at work at midday and then down the pub to celebrate finally passing my final accountancy exams so am now a fully qualified bean counter! First Grimsby, seams like days and days ago. We did catch the 6.11 and arrived at the turnstile at approximately 3.03 due to the bus from Cleethorpes running late and due to the down pour more and more people getting on making the bus later and later. All turnstiles were shut, so we had to go down to the ticket office, before returning to the still closed turnstile, before a steward eventually popped his head round to see who was banging on the gates. Signs of a Mickey Mouse run club if you ask me. The Steward said the turnstiles where nothing to do with him and he didn't know who was in charge. Typical cop out response.As for the match, well we were dire and got what we deserved. Nothing. The away support was about 400 and we made plenty of noise, but once again a controversial decision(s) cost us the match. Was Jones fouled, was the ball over the line, if Knight was pushed into the advertising board at the end afoul or if not Knight should have been booked for diving. After the game we headed back to Doncaster and met some lads we know from England games for a couple more beers.
Monday morning and it was off to Gatwick for the 11.30 flight to Lisbon. It was about 30 minutes late so when we touched down it was literally a rush down to another gate on to the Faro flight. We arrived around 5pm, got some Euros out the cash point and then caught the local bus into Faro centre (20minute ride for just 1 euro 20).
We had soon checked into our hotel overlooking the harbour and then ventured out for some food (after I had been brave and checked my exam results released on line at 4pm). We found a nice place in the centre of the newer part of the city and were soon tucking into the local sardines (well Liz was not me as I am not a great fish eater)and a great meal and we had plenty of time to talk to the waiter as we were the only people in for food that evening. We wandered back to the hotel bar, and were soon off to bed ready for a full days sightseeing (and food and drink the next day).
Tuesday we spent in the old town. Faro has a long history, lots linked to the Moorish population (Arabic) and then the Roman times. The square by the old church was dominated by numerous overloaded orange trees. We found abar in the back streets
and the barman was a nutter, he spoke very little English but we got along fine especially as the Super Boc and Sagres beer was cheap and very tasty! We visited the restaurant next door and once again had a local dish as a starter (based on some old Arabic tradition).The building still had the wells built by the Arabics which link to underground tunnels that lead 15km out of the city. The waiter gave us agood history lesson and the food served up was superb. He gave us some taster of the local liqueurs and we finished on an Almond based once, which was very different especially when lemon juice was added, but even after those I turned down his offer to go down one of the wells for a look!
Wednesday morning and we did our bit for English/Portuguese relations. In league with the British Council and englandfans we visited a local school to take part in an English lesson.
The pupils were only allowed to talk English and after we introduced ourselves they asked us questions. The topic of hooligans and violence raise its head but we were able to put over the positive side, and was well worth the 2 hours out of the day. Once we were back we visited the football village they had built which had live music and additional bars installed. We visited our local in the old town and then at 7pm headed for the free shuttle buses to the ground. It took about 45 minutes and we were soon outside the
away entrance. For the first time in 10 years we had to produce our membership cards and our tickets open an electronic turnstile. All positive so far, but then it went down hill.The stand we were in was temporary (similar to the South Stand at Withdean)and only 2 small entrances for 2,500 people. There were no proper ladies loos so had to bring in
porter-loos. Once in the seated area there were 3blocks (with no information) so 3 sets of identical seat numbers. We had z13and z14 and found 3 of them, apparently it was blocks s3, s4 and s5 but it was chaos as nobody had a clue. I thought the match was entertaining for afriendly and a draw a fair result. The highlight of the match was the announcement
that those on the "official day trips" had to be back on board buses within 5 minutes!!!!! After the game the shuttle buses back to Faro couldn't be seen, but a mate had a coach back to Faro so we were able to jump back on that. No rush was needed. The coaches (including those to the airport) sat attempting to get on the one road out of the stadium. We had got out the ground at about 11pm, we finally drove back past the away stand at 12.30 and were back in Faro just before 1am. The traffic was chaotic and needs to be sorted before the "proper" matches. As I said we were up at4.40 for a taxi to the airport.
So Bournemouth on Saturday but before that its time to book our trip to Sweden for the friendly on the 31st March.