I'm glad that the World Cup is over and that I can return to my hatred of football. I was starting to enjoy it so much that I was living with a permanent feeling of guilt and shame. As I'm filming in New York I had to fit the last couple of games around my schedule and try to find a bar with the game on. For the final I was due to be filming Uptown but was sure that I could make it back down to Soho in time. I'd forgotten about New York traffic. As the game started I was stuck in a sea of yellow cabs and none of them looked like moving anytime soon.
As we crawled down Sixth Avenue I managed to follow what was going on by watching the crowds that spilled out on to the street at every bar along the way. I finally got back to my hotel and rushed upstairs to turn on my telly. Disaster – it wasn't working. I called down to reception and explained the situation. A man was up within two minutes and he eventually managed to get the set working.
It was half-time and there had been no goals... I relaxed. With every shot at goal or flying karate kick, I could hear screams and shouts coming up from two bars down the street. They were on opposite sides of the street – one was packed with Spaniards while the other one was a sea of Dutch orange. I watched out of my window as the two bars went through the full roller-coaster of emotions that comes with having your team so near to becoming world champions.
Once the game was over I got ready to go out. I left the hotel and wandered past the opposing bars. It was like that scene from Woody Allen's Stardust Memories with someone on a really sad, dull train looking out of the window at another train where everyone is dancing and partying away. The Spanish bar was going loco – people were literally dancing on the tables, kissing each other, doing a conga... meanwhile, on the other side of the street about 200 Dutch supporters all stood, almost motionless, taking half-hearted sips of beer and staring into the middle distance.
It was like some art installation and I briefly thought about entering the Dutch funeral bar and asking them who won? I decided that this might be dangerous and walked on....
Dinner at Balthazar, my favourite New York restaurant, awaited. My waiter was Spanish and could barely concentrate on taking my order. He almost danced from kitchen to table and had a huge smile cemented to his face. I asked him if he wished he were back in Spain for the evening. He told me that he wasn't worried as he was flying home for a holiday the next day and that the celebrations would still be going on "all week..."
After a fabulous meal I bade farewell to the world's happiest waiter and strolled back through the cobbled streets of Soho towards my hotel. Things had changed in the Stardust Memories street. The Spaniards, not content with their own celebrations, had invaded the Dutch bar. A huge group of red shirts did a drunken conga in and out of stiff, orange shirted men who were all trying to ignore the situation. This said a lot for the laid-back Dutch mentality. The idea of somebody doing this to a pub-load of defeated England fans was unthinkable – there would be blood on the streets.
Then, two Spanish fans crossed the streets carrying six huge jugs of what looked like sangria. They started offering the drink to the assembled Dutch who slowly accepted this act of generosity. The conga stopped and the fans started to drink and mix. It was like that scene in World War One movies where the two opposing armies meet in between the trenches for a drink and a game of football.
I moved on – it was stultifying hot and I longed for the cool of my hotel's air conditioning. I had a couple of drinks in the hotel bar and tried not to be impressed by the fact that Lady Gaga appeared to be sitting about six feet away from me. My thirst quenched, I took the lift up to my room. I looked out of the window – the two bars were now pretty much as one and they filled the street blocking the traffic. This would never happen in England, I thought to myself as I tried to get to sleep over the din of an endless "Ole, ole, ole, ole...."Reuse content