England fans take over Manaus ahead of Italian clash
Small corner of the Amazon Jungle has awoken to chants of ‘In-ger-land’ and some of the sort of sights that you might normally expect to see along the Costa del Sol
There are expected to be 40 England fans for every Italian inside the Arena da Amazonia tonight and, whether it was on the streets of Manaus or the rainforests and rivers that surround this extraordinary city, that mismatch in numbers has been evident this morning.
For one day only, this small corner of the Amazon Jungle has awoken to chants of ‘In-ger-land’ and some of the sort of sights that you might normally expect to see along the Costa del Sol.
The atmosphere, though, has been overwhelming friendly as two cultures, just about as far removed from one another as you could imagine, are briefly intertwined by football.
England, it can safely be said, have never played anywhere like Manaus, a city that is a full four hour flight from the main hubs of this World Cup in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
Manaus is even on a different time-zone to the other host venues and is actually closer to Peru, Columbia and Venezuela.
The Football Association has sold 2,500 tickets for tonight’s match but a further 4,500 England fans are understood to have bought tickets through other outlets. Italy, by contrast, estimate that they will be supported by no more than 200 in Manaus tonight.
Within literally seconds of arriving at the Eduardo Gomes airport, it is obvious why this was the one destination England wanted to avoid but that the supporters were most intrigued to visit.
Just a few deep breaths is sufficient to literally taste the humidity and heat that is expected to be around 75pc and 29 degrees when England kick-off at 6pm local time. Yet even before setting foot in Manaus, supporters have already been treated to some truly awesome views of the vast Amazon rainforest while their incoming flight cross the jungle. The England fans in the jungle today generally mix between two categories.
Those who are determined to bring a flavour of England to Manaus – with their beer drinking capacities and array of football chants both amusing and bemusing the locals - and those who are determined to discover this remote corner of the world. This morning, at least, it was the latter that represent the majority.
“We have been here four days,” said Mike Huxford, a mechanic from Wolverhampton, who is in Manaus with his wife Judy.
“We took an overnight trip down to the Amazon and it is one of the most amazing experiences of our life. We swam with dolphins, met some of the indigenous people of the rainforest and have seen the meeting of the waters between the Amazon and Rio Negro rivers. The people have been incredibly friendly and welcoming.
"We have come from Sao Paulo and it is almost like a different country.
“That was a concrete jungle but amazing in its own way. This is the real thing. To see England play in Brazil and also visit a setting like this is just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The tourist boats that make their way up the Rio Negro river to Amazon can rarely have been more busy and there seems to be genuine delight at the chance to welcome England to their city. There have been three main focal points today for gathering England fans.