World Cup 2014: England’s travelling fans face language trouble in Sao Paulo, but spirits are high


If England should die, remember this. That there’s some corner of Sao Paulo that will be forever Grimsby, Ipswich, Doncaster, Wolverhampton, Havant and Waterlooville, and the list goes on.

LIVE: Follow the latest news as England play Uruguay, plus Colombia v Ivory Coast and Japan v Greece

Brazil’s beating cultural and economic heart is not like London, or Rio de Janeiro. There is no Copacabana or Trafalgar Square to speak of.

Rather the Three Lions are moving like ants around a complicated concrete formicary, but even in one of the world’s largest urban metropolises, they are a near-ubiquitous presence.

Along the grand Avenida Paulista they are turning their tourist maps in confused circles before giving up and heading to the nearest bar. In the winding streets of Jardim Paulista, Rua Inglaterra runs parallel to Rua Polonia, and leads on to Rua Italia, Rua Franca and Rua Belgica (all turnings off the Avenida Europa), To the west, via Ruas Venezuela and Nicaragua is Rua Urugai. Compared  to Inglaterra, it’s a narrow and rather parochial little alleyway.

At the official England fan hub yesterday they queued from 10am, despite it not opening until two. “We’re just here to get our tickets,” said Dave Webb, whose vital statistics  are 40, Wolves, fifth major tournament. “But the bar’d better be open.”

The 64-year-old Steve Haslam, who is well into his fourth decade of following England around the world, has come straight from the heat of Manaus. “It’s fine, I’m sure it’ll all be fine, but nobody speaks English  do they?”

He is right that life in Brazil is not straightforward for England’s non-Portuguese travelling army, and all other non-Portuguese speaking travelling armies, too.

“You come out at the station, or the airport, and they’re all there,” said Ian Holme (28, Leeds, only Ukraine/Poland so far). “They’ve got ‘Volunteer’ on their back in English. I don’t think they even know what that means.”

But the main word on everyone’s lips is a Spanish one – “Suarez” – and whether or not arguably the Premiership’s finest player is fit, unfit, half-fit, or somewhere in between.

“I don’t think he’s fit, he can’t be,” said John Elliott, (54, Charlton Athletic, every one since Portugal 2004, except South Africa).

“The jury’s out. But even if he is, you know in the Costa Rica game [who beat Urugay 3 -1], the Uruguay defence couldn’t handle the pace could they. Look at our players, Sturridge, Sterling, Welbeck, they’ve all got pace. They’ll find it difficult.”

“I hope we win, I really do, but I think maybe a draw.” said his friend Trevor Bradford (also Charlton Athletic, every one since Portugal 2004, except South Africa).

They landed at Sao Paulo International and in collecting their tickets and getting directions in to town, they recruited the services of lanyard wearing Fifa delegate.

“I’m sure he was very busy but he was very helpful. Telling us where to go, giving us the information and all that.”

“There are edgy times,” said Rachel Sutton, (44, Oldham, England football virgin). “I’m sure it’ll be a great tournament, but it’s the second game and it’s already ‘must win’. And it’s not going to be easy.”

Mark Ridley of Newark, 51, deep into a large bottle of the local lager with his shirt off in the just-before-midday sun, said “England will do it. Three nil.”

For his friend, Andy Stonebridge: “Last time, England played well. Roy picked the team we wanted. We backed off for their goals but we were very confident. England, two-nil. And Rooney will score.”

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