Vietnam vets, scalpers, scallies & Fleet Street thieves

With Internazionale and Real Madrid visiting Barcelona this week, it’s been a busy time, what with all the media whoring to promote Glory Glory! and people asking for tickets for El Clasico as if I can conjure them out of thin air for a fiver.

Andrew Cole, who has spent the last week playing for Manchester United veterans against Liverpool vets in Vietnam and Malaysia, wanted eight.

I pointed him in the direction of Charles Hamilton, an Englishman who runs a company in Barcelona called Travel Connection.

They do everything from sorting out tourists with Barça tickets to looking after the travel needs of English clubs when they play in Spain.

I met Hamilton on Monday and he explained how his business works.

He buys 700 tickets (most of them top seats) for every Barça game at the start of each season and pays the club up front – about €1 million.

He takes the rough with the smooth and obviously sells a lot more for the Real Madrid game than Almeria on a midweek winter night, but as recently as this March it was very rough indeed.

The pound crashing against the Euro affected the number of British visitors, before Barça’s treble-winning team saw an upturn in demand – showing how fickle the tourist area of the ticket market can be.

Then Barça signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his phone did not stop ringing with Scandinavians wanting to come and watch.

Hamilton has seen new ticket agencies pop up like mushrooms to cater for this market and he has competition at street level too.

As I walked to the Barça vs Inter game, there were people holding placards offering to pay €300 for a Barca vs Madrid ticket.

They didn’t look Catalan -  because they were from Manchester.

Be it the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City or the European Cup final, most of the ticket touts grafting will come from Manchester or Liverpool.

“You speak that Spanish,” one of them, a lad I know from supporting United, said to me. “Can you help us out?”

I know and like a lot of them. I admire them for their entrepreneurial spirit and brazen willingness to travel to Barcelona and overshadow the local touts.

But it would be hugely hypocritical for a fanzine editor to help ticket touts out, when the unwritten rule among our readers is that a ticket should never be sold above face value.

The day before I met Charles Hamilton, I was invited to be interviewed on the BBC’s World Service.

I’ve been doing a lot of interviews to promote Glory Glory!. It’s a buzz.

The BBC booked a studio in Barcelona and did a 20-minute live interview covering everything from how we started United We Stand to what the Barça players are like.

The programme has 40 million listeners around the world so I’m expecting a surge in sales in Bangladesh, where I’m sure the locals are used to shelling out £15 for a book.

The FourFourTwo editor did get one interesting letter from his Australian counterpart. A Japanese man had bought Glory Glory!

He didn’t speak or understand English, so spent five weeks transcribing the whole book, before composing an email which took him five hours to tell me that. How ace is that?

He sent the email to the editor of the Australian FourFourTwo, but I eventually got the message.

I also found out that Mad For It – the book on derbies which came out last year – has been translated into Japanese.

I found that out from a reader, as opposed to the publisher!

And, as predicted, the Darren Fletcher interview which I told you about a few weeks ago was picked up by all the papers this week.

Thankfully, most of them credited our humble little fanzine, though The Mirror passed the quotes off as their own, just as they did with quotes taken from an Andrew Cole column I had ghosted for him last week – the one with Cole talking about Fernando Torres.

As Mike Duff, Manchester’s best poet, commented: "A newspaper creditin' a magazine is like someone borrowin' yer shoes without tellin'' leavin a thank you note.”

The Mirror didn’t even leave the thank you note.

I’ll get back to the madness now.

We’ve fixed up what will hopefully be an in-depth interview with Xavi for FFT so I’ll meet him at Barça’s training ground where I’ll continue to fail to convince another player that life would be better by the Irwell than the Med.

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