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June 22, 2006

Can we not just beat Sweden *once* in my lifetime?

I knew when I made my travel arrangements that getting back to Hania to see all of the England game was always going to be tough. My flight was scheduled to land at 21:40, the game due to kick-off at 22:00 Greek time, and the journey from the airport to old town takes around twenty minutes.

But I planned ahead. I took only hand luggage, and so when we got off the plane at 21:41 I knew I had 19 minutes to get in front of a TV. I sprinted through the airport and headed straight to the taxi rank. Everything was going according to plan.

However, having travelled on two trains in Germany, and then two flights, I hadn't reckoned on the taxi being the weakest link in my transport chain.

"Καλα σπερα, γαι σας, Ηαλιδον παρακαλο" I said - [Good afternoon/evening, hello, Halidon street please]

I got settled into my taxi, and then to my horror, the driver said, "We will wait for someone else". It is quite common in Greece to share taxis, but that wasn't in my script. "Well, can we just go now? I need to get into town for ten o'clock".

"It's OK, no problem, one minute or two"

"No, it isn't OK. I'd like to go now, I need to get into town for the World Cup game at ten o'clock".

He turned on the electrics of the car, to show me the time was now 21:50, and said "It is OK, it only takes twenty minutes to Halidon".

"Yes, I know that, I live here. That is why I want to go now. I will pay you more if we go now. You said €17 to Halidon, I will pay €25 to go now"

It was such a culture clash. He got out of the car and him and the other drivers were just tutting to each other and shrugging and couldn't see what the fuss was about, I was going to town in a minute, why such a hurry? Meanwhile I was fuming in the taxi - to have come so close and then to be let down at the last moment by the laid-back Greek attitude. I said afterwards to Claire that in the UK you could probably get out of the cab and just find another taxi driver to leave straight away, but in Greece everything works on more of a co-operative basis, and I knew I was just being a crazy foreigner to them.

So the game had kicked-off by the time we actually got going, and as we pulled out of the airport the driver turned to me and happily said, "See, it is OK, we are going now".

If looks could kill...

Well, bad driving can kill, and quietly seething in the back I reflected on the fact that first of all I was going to miss some of the game because the taxi driver wouldn't get going, and now he had, it seemed like there was a good chance I was going to miss the whole game because the way he was driving I was going to end up dead in a crumpled car-crash heap in the middle of the road.

But I survived, and got to Cafe Remezzo about halfway through the first half, to the very welcome sight of Claire waiting to meet me. It was so sweet of her to come out so late for her on a night when she had work the next day, but she said she just couldn't wait in for me. So sweet.

Not so sweet was the pathetic bit of defending at the death of the match which meant England ended up drawing.

For the love of god, can we not just beat Sweden for once in my lifetime?

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