The International Writers Magazine: Dealing with the Fans in
DIARIES PART VI
James Skinner is the Hononary
the last of my series of Diplomatic Diaries, I thought
I would kill two birds with one stone and describe what happens
when a whole group of Brits descend on a town en-masse or the
arrival of British VIPs on a diplomatic or business visit.
Two very different and separate approaches I can assure you but
involving, nevertheless a great deal of extra work.
the first case which could be anything from a large exhibition or international
conference on almost any subject described in the dictionary or it could
be an international sporting event. Take your pick from sailing and
golf to the unbearable European soccer matches involving British clubs.
Its the latter case that causes the most labour intensive consular
workload. Just imagine what goes on when a platoon of eleven Brits attacks
a similar number of Spanish troops on small rectangular and defined
part of the planet with thousands of followers on either side chanting
slogans of hatred. Trouble is bound to be always just around the corner,
or should I say stadium.
I arrived at the airport to meet the 09:30 flight from Madrid. The sun
was shinning and there were no signs of fog on the runway that could
delay the odd flight coming into Vigo airport. This time all was running
smoothly. As the passengers came through the immigration check point,
I was searching for the one that didnt look like a Galician fisherman
or a woman dressed up as a Versace model. There he is! I
said to myself. A tall blond mid thirties young man walked through the
exit. Wrong! He was a Norwegian engineer. Finally, a stocky, grey flannel
suited, middle aged male approached me and says, Mr. Skinner?
Im Sergeant Jones.
And so we began to set up the police check for the forthcoming soccer
match between an English team and a local Spanish one competing in one
of a plethora of European Soccer championships.
Scotland Yard and Interpol have got a pretty good hold on who the real
European trouble makers are when it comes to undesirable football hooligans
and other animal beastie followers. They are few and far between but
they can cause real havoc. Most police departments on the continent
coordinate and exchange information well in advance of the match on
whos who on the football criminal list. The good side is that
both British and local police get on well together, especially during
the off hour entertainment periods. I get my fare share
of cockles, mussels and white wine.
When the charter flights finally arrive at the airport and bring with
them the ranting and raving mobs, my stocky friend and a couple of his
colleagues are there with their computers and check list ready to spot
any undesirable troublemaker. The local cops have the handcuffs unlocked.
The aircraft has not quite made it to the gate but you can hear the
Ole! Ole, Ole, Ole! as it bellows out from within the cabin.
As the doors are opened, the human flood rolls out and the carnival
begins. The supporters pack into awaiting buses laughing and singing
as they continue their tribal chanting in support of their team all
the way to the downtown hot spots. The match will not begin until later
on in the evening. Meantime, the beer pumps are at full throttle in
every bar within stadium walking distance. My police friend has shut
down his PC and taken me for a meal. No criminals this time round, only
brewery shareholders. We brace ourselves for the match.
Ninety minutes of purgatory as a watchful eye is kept on the goings
on in the crowded stadium. If a goal is scored, the television cameras
zoom in on a group of rowdies throwing coke cans at the pitch. Two guys
are quietly escorted away.
The final whistle blows and the British team wins by two goals to one.
They go through to the next round to cause trouble in another part of
Europe whilst the Spaniards sulk and go home. Thank God for that! Now
that theyve won, most fans are poured back into the buses and
on to the awaiting UK bound flights. A great deal of those staying behind
hit the town yet again. My Sergeant friend and I contact the local stadium
police for any arrests. There are none this time around. My next stop
is the hospitals. Two Brits with cuts and bruises are dealt as out patients
and sent on their way. At the end of the day all went well and everyone
It was not always like this. Years ago, real tragedies occurred at many
of these football events. No need to reach out with historical statistics
as most of the horror days are now over. Consular work during football
matches nowadays is to make sure that the drunken Brits get back home;
with their passports in their pockets and that they havent beaten
up a local Spaniard on the way!
It is quite different when the Royal Navy visits the city. The dandies
are in town. Believe me its nothing but fun. Galicia is known for its
hospitality towards the British, specially the elite of the armed forces.
No sooner does the ship arrive that the dignitaries are there to enjoy
lunch on board and a cocktail in the evening. A visit to the town council
for the exchange of mementoes with the mayor, the laying of a reef on
the grave of an unknown soldier at the British cemetery and a full blown
press conference are the order of the day. Football and rugby matches
are arranged, a trip to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral for the
more cultural officers and a list of nightclubs for the rest are all
part of consular work.
No different to bygone days, many a broken heart remains once the mariners
have left. In todays modern age however, it can be of either sex!
As I hit the final keys on this PC, I would like to say a word of caution
to anyone travelling abroad who needs consular assistance. I am only
available 24 hours, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year!
© James Skinner. March 9th 2005.
James Skinner - Diplomatic Diaries Pt 3
James Skinner in Vigo
James Skinner on ID theft
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