City shadows, Seba Veron & a Primark in River Plate

“Sexo, droga y Penarol” – Montevideo graffiti.

Uruguay is a football country and Montevideo, its fading capital of 1.2 million, its epicentre. According to the football museum at the Cententario stadium, the British military introduced football to the country. The Uruguayans repaid us by winning the first World Cup in 1930 – to celebrate a 100 years of independence.

The Estadio Centenario in Montevideo

I walked through the centre and spoke to a man selling T-shirts celebrating that 1930 World Cup win.

“Where you from?” he asked.

“Manchester, England.”

“United or city?”

City’s profile is higher than I’ve ever known. It used to be: "Ah, United. Nobby Stiles, Bobby Charlton.”

“City mucho dinero,” he replied, rubbing his fingers.

“Yes and no trophies,” I replied.

“Soon,” he hit back smiling. “Soon.”

A more paranoid man would think that City’s chief executive Garry ‘Milan bottled it’ Cook had paid someone to shadow me and wind me up.

Cook: "Follow that Mitten"

The street vendor was a Nacional fan and he went onto explain that his club were better than United on account of winning three Inter Continental/World Club championships to United’s two.

It got worse an hour later, as I stumbled across a wonderful shop selling old football memorabilia. Pride of place was a record with ‘Liverpool’ written on it.

“What’s this?” I asked the owner.

“They are a club here in Uruguay. They wear blue.” Then I discovered that the main market in Montevideo was constructed in ‘Liverpool, England.’

Later, we met Johan Jensen, the Norwegian journalist who covers South American football for United We Stand. He grew up in Tromso, which houses Europe’s most northerly university.

Only natural then that he’s spent three years in South America, the last few months in Montevideo. Before that he did a three-month football tour around the continent. I wanted to interview Juan Sebastian Veron on this trip, but I’m limited to four days in Buenos Aires and Veron, 33, has been recalled by Argentina for the first time since the 2007 Copa America.

I saw him in that, spraying the ball around like a knee-bandaged God. I’m fascinated by ‘Seba’ as the United players called him and Johan pleased me by explaining how he’s putting his own money into the youth set up at his current club Estudiantes – where his father also kicked, sorry, played.

Oh, and that he was the best player in South America last year. I asked Johan if he’d cross the world’s widest river to interview Veron and he’s up for it.

Veron dictates vs Venezuela 

Next day, I visited the Centenario stadium, which was built in just eight months to hold 90,000 for the 1930 World Cup. It seats 75,000 now on its vast tiered banks, but, like Uruguayan club football, it has sadly seen better days.

There’s a football museum inside the stadium and I came across another ultra enthusiastic host, who showed me all the exhibits and let me into the stadium.

From there we caught a bus to Colonia, which is where I’m writing from. We went past where the German cruiser ‘Graf Spee’ which was scuttled after the Battle of the River Plate in World War II and we’ll board a boat to one of the greatest football cities in the world… Buenos Aires.

It just so happens that our arrival coincides with the first weekend of the season. I really hope there’s a Primark in BA to keep my girlfriend occupied as River Plate are at home…

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