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Manaus is not your typical football venue, as many of the more intrepid visitors have discovered to their delight. No World Cup host city is more exciting or surprising than this jungle metropolis, where the dark waters of the Negro river and the clearer waters of the Solimoes flow side by side to create one of the Amazon’s most majestic sights. In the city’s heyday only the very best was considered good enough for Manaus. The Teatro Amazonas, the opera house, stems from that bygone period and would provide a stage for only the greatest tenors to perform on. A large part of the construction materials for the building arrived from Europe, with the tiles for the roof shipped in from Germany, the cobblestone for the courtyard imported from Portugal, while the metal handrails in the gallery and the ceiling frescos are products of Italian craftsmanship. However, today the building stands as a relic of a long-forgotten era. There is no longer any semblance of an operatic atmosphere in the city; instead the bustle of everyday life has taken over and the streets are now filled with countless stalls selling everything from bananas to jeans and plastic toys. English presence The bumpy, weather-beaten pitch at the ­A rena da Amazonia provided the platform for Pirlo’s masterclass, much to the dismay of the thousands of sweltering English fans. They had arrived, if the inscriptions on their flags were anything to go by, from all corners of the British Isles: Birmingham, Wigan, Tranmere, Lemington Spa and Ellesmere Port. Some were rather more creative, with a Stoke contingent holding aloft a banner reading ‘Forgive me Delilah’ and ‘Stokies Here, Stokies There’; a group from Wigston displaying a flag reading ‘Where you’re smiling’, and some Sheffield United supporters choosing ‘Blades up the Amazon’. Yet the weather seemed to affect those in the stands as much as it did the players on the pitch. Only once was a heartfelt version of ‘God save the Queen’ heard throughout the 90 minutes, belted out after England had levelled the score at 1-1. The only injury of the day had nothing to do with the heat, however: team physio Gary Lewin celebrated England’s equaliser so fervently that he dislocated his ankle and had to be carried away on a stretcher. Manaus will host two more group stage matches: on Sunday USA face Portugal and on Wednesday Switzerland take on Honduras. ­Visitors will then leave the city as swiftly as they arrived and the jungle will take over once more, clawing back everything in its reach. The

The agony of cramp Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini (l) and Claudio Marchisio help England’s Raheem Sterling to stretch out

The only injury of the day had nothing to do with the heat. planned Transamazonica highway will almost certainly be one of its victims and it is already covered in undergrowth, having only been partially completed. In the original ‘rumble in the Jungle’ on 30 October 1974, Ali knocked out Foreman in the eighth round to regain the world title in Kin-

shasa. Just as he never agreed to a rematch, England are unlikely to meet Italy again at Brazil 2014 as the only way the two former World Cup winners can square off once more is in the Final on 13 July in Rio. Another fixture b ­ etween the two in Manaus is, regrettably, even more improbable. Å

England’s group matches Italy (lost 2-1), Uruguay (19 June), Costa Rica (24 June) T H E F I FA W E E K LY


The FIFA Weekly Issue #35  

The FIFA Weekly Issue #35  

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