It's 16 years since I experienced my first visit to a World Cup, and it was nothing like I was expecting. Landing in Los Angeles, fresh from two years working as freelance on Fleet Street, was weird dislocation. In England, and on the subs bench at The Sun in particular, football, the games and all its baggage, was almost overwhelming. European nights at Highbury, World Cup warmups at Wembley, working in an office under a huge picture of Vinnie Jones with a fistful of Gazza's meat and two veg, was like oxygen to a young journo/ football fan. And then hot LA, an el cheapo motel downtown, no one with any clue as to why you were there. If you told them the football/ soccer World Cup you got a blank, distrusting look. It sounded too foreign.
Five weeks in a trailer in the Rose Bowl car park, with the odd epic game (Argentina 2 Romania 3, still the greatest football exhibition I've seen live) thrown in. Abiding memories of the mobile burrito van which kept me fed, filterless Camels I still regret, watching out the window as the LA cops brought in OJ, the sky full of TV choppers. And an earthquake. Well a tremor that seems scarier with each year. Seeing Al Gore and his entourage of secret service, wearing, and I'm not sure why I found this so funny at the time, large plastic accreditations declaring SECRET SERVICE.
Agence France Presse staff having a huge seafood feast and then dumping their prawn shells in the industrial bin next to our UPI trailer. Did they pay to have that bin left there for the next 10 days?
Rewriting American soccer copy into English to send to papers where they would doubtless write it back into American. And sitting next to a befuddled man from New York who couldn't understand why a defender was allowed to score a goal.
Soon to South Africa. What memories are still to come?