Lahti and beyond (well, back to Helsinki really)
Trip Start Aug 23, 2009
12Trip End Sep 02, 2009
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24 hours ago we were on a coach. There were 30-odd of us and we were all excited and nervous in anticipation of the first England game of the Euros. We all had flags and voices. Margaret Brown had her Chinese hooter. But there was no drum. Pete had been entrusted with the China drum, but had left it at home because he couldn't fit it in his case.
Yesterday morning Lisa and I took our time getting ready for the day. Kick off was at 5.30 (Finn time) and we were meeting up with everyone at the Holiday Inn hotel in north Helsinki (the players' hotel) at 3pm. So we knew there wasn't much point making any plans for the morning. We strolled up to the Scandic and met the Carney's, Bernie, Gavin, Steve, Mike, Pete, Emma and Richard in reception. A 20 minute tram ride north and we were there, ready to go
We arrived at the stadium about 20 minutes before kick off, just as the starting line-up was being announced: Browny, Alex, Casey, Faye, Neets, Jill, Katie, Faz, Sue, Kaz and Eni. The Essex FA had made a giant flag (out of many smaller flags signed and decorated by teams in Essex), so we laid it out over all the spare seats in our block (eventually, we had it back-to-front and then thought it was upside-down, but it turned out to be a 2-way flag) which kept me, Mike and Marie, plus a few others giggling for a little bit. The big China flag was draped over the top to weigh it down and then we all took our seats.
Right next to the stadium are 3 ski jumps (presumably for the winter Olympics) which can be used with snow and without snow
28 minutes in Casey was the last defender, got her finger stuck in the collar of the opposition's shirt and the Italian went down. Casey got a straight red. This was not what we wanted or needed. Unsurprisingly everyone was gutted. And it seemed to shake the team somewhat as well. It didn't help the already shaky looking start. The girls regrouped, though and Kaz was awarded a penalty. Faz, in true style, put the penalty away and we were 1-0 up going in at half time. Eni was subbed of for the start of the 2nd half and Kelly came on. Italy equalised about 10 minutes in, but we kept on attacking, leaving Alex on her own at the back each time we went forward. We seemed to be having the majority of chances for a while (and the majority of the offside shouts!) but the Italians scored a glorious goal in the 80th. The game finished 2-1 to Italy. Not the way we wanted to start our tournament.
We trudged back to the coach after the game, and were then told we could join the players for food in a small canteeny sort of thing by the ski jumps before going back to the hotel. So, yoghurts, bananas and coffee it was, after stopping for photos by the ski jumps. Hope called us in to eat (Lisa & I are now being called number 9 & the other number 9 by Hope (remember the printing on our shirts? do keep up!) - does this mean we're in the squad now?
The players were given the option to travel back to their hotel with their families, so Kaz, Kelly, Leanne, Jonno, Jody and Rach joined us on our quiet trek back to Helsinki.
Back at the players' hotel we were given instructions to sit in the meeting rooms and wait for the players - we were allowed to have the drinks on the table but were not allowed to eat any of the food. They had Ribena on the tables, how very exciting! That cheered me up no end! The players joined us after their meeting and we watched them eat. Hope then allowed us to eat after the players had had their fill, and the food was fab. Can now understand why they always rate their chef so highly - he can come and cook for us at home if he likes!
Mike had found out what time the last tram left from outside the hotel (presumably from the tram stop), so at 11.15 we all said our goodbyes and walked the 100 yards from the hotel to the tram stop to catch the 11.22 tram back. On we all got (buying tickets, of course!), and off we set
So that was yesterday. Today has been a much quieter affair (and yet it's silly o'clock as I'm writing this, I don't think we understand the term 'early night' on a football holiday!). We went out for a stroll before lunch and actually managed to do just that! We had a little explore of the east side of the city, and there wasn't much there to report about. We both now know why there isn't much about the east side of the centre in the guidebooks, it's because there isn't that much there. We found a small food market and bought some (scrummy) blueberries and strawberries as well as the famed and in season (not quite as scrummy) cloudberries. We also discovered another ferry point that will take us to the zoo, on a shorter and possibly slightly cheaper (or should that be not quite as expensive) than the main harbour by the main food market. So guess where we're going tomorrow?! We had coffee and cake (giant cinnamon roll) in Cafe Java just round the corner from our new findings, and how jolly yummy it was too. And then strolled back to the apartment for a gentle couple of hours, some more food and then on to the double header of matches this evening
The match itself was great, with Finland winning 2-1 and going through to the quarter-finals. (Oh to take the easy way through the group stages by winning the first two games, where's the fun and entertainment in that!) It was a good crowd, just over 16,000 attended and that included a drumming band (did they get that idea from the Denmark fans?), as well as a group of about 20 blokes who were standing in the open air end (getting very wet as it poured down through most of the game) who were able to get the whole crowd responding to their chants. No idea what they were saying to get a response, but it got a huge 'Suomi' from the crowd in reply. Fab, entertaining evening rounded off by blueberries, strawberries and Moomin biscuits (must buy more of them, they're lovely).
Tomorrow (if it stays dry, as there's just been a great thunder and lightning storm) we're off to the zoo, which is on an island to the east of us. And when I say on an island I mean the whole island is the zoo! 12euros for the return boat trip and entrance fee from our newly found harbour - bargain! Followed by a cruise around the islands to the south, or maybe shopping, who knows? No football, though that's for sure. Gearing up for the Russians on Friday.
That's your lot for today - we're off to bed.