I already mentioned that during my stay in London in the summer of 2010 was at the time of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Team Slovakia also qualified and we played the final match of the group stage against Italy. Both teams could still qualify for the knock-out phase and I really had to see that match. We watched at the hostel with guys. Me, my English friend Tom, one Polish guy, five guys whose nationality I do did not know and four Italians. I was absolutely positive that they were Italian only ten minutes to the match end, when I asked directly. However, I supposed that they were Italians, because they were living trough the match. The football was not excellent but the drive was great. Even the British media labelled it as one of the best matches of the tournament. There were emotions, Italy played aggressively, at the costs of Slovak defensive midfielder Zdeno Štrba, who ended up with a bloody head. The atmosphere was on fire even in the hostel .
Cars, fashion, food and football – that´s Italy.
I and the Polish guy cheered on our team. I even thanked him for the own goal. We played qualification match with Poland, when one of their defender hit his own goal and helped us to advance to the World Cup. Tom liked the Slovak team but criticized our goalkeeper Mucha that he cannot catch the ball, he just boxes it back to the danger zone. This wasn´t his best match but I told Tom that Mucha saved our team several times during the qualification. The Italians were cheering on their team but recognized that this was not their tournament. They did not play well. They even acknowledged that the questionable offside, when the referee did not give them a goal, really was an offside. I say that it was not. Sometimes everything depends on the linesman.
In the end the tifosi were disappointed. I had never seen anyone being so sad after a football match. I have witnessed happier funerals than this. Angelo, who came from Rome and worked in London as a baker thanked me. He was glad that we – the Slovak team – woke them up from a dream. “Now Italy will rise again,” he said, “exactly like the Ancient Rome and in two years, we will show you at the European championship.” After that I had to hurry to work because I wanted to start before six. I run. I realised a sad thing that during the peak traffic it I was faster at work on foot, running, than as if I took a bus.
Next morning I came home from the shop and there was a new guy. I did not care, people in the hostel were changing quickly. Tom was not at home, he went to visit his family. I took out my notebook and started doing my business. The guy left, most probably for the kitchen, because after a while he came back with a cooking pot. I did not care and decided to cook an instant soup. When I came back, the guy was sitting behind the desk and eating pasta with tuna. Only one group, actually nationality, can be eating such a combination. I asked him. “Where are you from?”
“Slovakia,” was the answer.
“Ale sme to včera tým Talianom dali,” I responded, which mean that yesterday we rocked the Italy in football.
We started talking. His name was Martin and he had lived in London for longer. He missed the match in the hostel because he was visiting family at Slovakia. He worked at a catering company and he had quite a good position, mostly he worked at the bar. BTW, the day before the city was full of Slovaks. Probably they were celebrating. In front of the Maple Leaf bar at Covent Garden I met a guy, who was talking about the football on the phone in Slovak. I congratulated him to the victory and left. There are still many Slovaks in London, they just do not give themselves away.
Two years later I was again in London during the 2012 Olympics. I met my old friend Jose in the city. Jose was an Italian and in 2010 helped me with my CV, when I needed a job. We walked to the Hyde Park Corner to see the bicycle race with Slovak rider Peter Sagan. We were waiting for about an hour, when the riders passed by in a hurry. We decided to visit the Slovak house in the city centre. I walked into the house, ushered by Slovak music (Elán, Paľo Habera and other Slovak bands) and whom I met. Martin was working as a manager in the centre of the Slovak Olympic house. Nice to see old friends again, both Jose and Martin. And in the street I met this Ted.