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04/05: Reports:

Football League Cup First Round, 24/08/04, 7.45pm
Cambridge United
Very far away
By Paul Smith

I like living in Indonesia, really I do. It's hot, it's sunny, and everything is all pretty cheap...but it's just so far away.

Sometimes this ain't a bad thing. You avoid hassle from various relatives over Christmas Dinner. You dodge disappointing birthday presents like underwear and ties (not even my mother will send socks ten thousand miles). You can even fly over to Bali for next to nothing when you fancy it. Don't get me wrong: all these things are good, but it's still very far away.

Needless to say, when it comes to my annual trip back to the UK, the journey is the part I least look forward to...normally.

This time, it was different; this time, I had a game to look forward to, a game the very night I was getting back. So Cambridge in the Whatever Cup might not be the glamour fixture of the decade but when you're running on an eleven and a half-month drought, it gives it a bit more oomph!

Semarang, 34 hours to game time. Starting to get excited now.

Jakarta, 30 hours to game time. Yep, getting really excited.

Kuala Lumpur, 26 hours to game time. Really, really excited now.

Dubai, 18 hours to game time. Officially the most excited man ever.

London, 8 hours to game time. This is silly, I'm a grown man!

Just enough time to eat (needed that), shower (really needed that) and put on my happy face for various family members (didn't really need that) before heading off to the ground (really need this).

I'll spare you the ramblings of a match report, or anything as in-depth as that, because (to be honest) I don't really remember much that's specific. Plus I spent most of the night wondering why I felt like I had motion sickness when the closest I'd been to any sort of water in the past two days was about five miles (up). "Must be the air," as my Mum said afterwards...bless!

Anyway, from what I do remember (it was just one of those games, wasn't it?), the whole thing wasn't too dissimilar to my journey!

Delayed in Semarang - we started poorly.

Argued over a ticket change in Jakarta and had to cough up forty bucks - we continued poorly.

Couldn't get off the plane in KL and had to suffer lots of cleaners trying to hoover up my feet and nick my copy of Golf Digest (I assume to throw away but maybe she plays, I dunno) - we remained poor.

Fell over in Dubai whilst trying to call my girlfriend, oggle at a Ferrari and avoid a Gucci sunglass stand all at the same time - we were still poor.

But then...

Change of plane and crew in Dubai and the final leg is like a dream. Smooth as you like, no annoying passenger sat next to me trying to stop me watching HellBoy or play Galaga on the handset thingy in the armrest, breakfast and lunch in the space of about ten minutes, more booze than Unwins, and two - yes, two - complimentary hot towels (love them towels)!

Anyway, Ray must have had a word with Emirates because just as my journey sparked up (eventually), so did the game. Dyer and Bouazza on for the willing but ultimately empty Webber and H and all sorts of things start happening. As if that's not enough, Ferrell gets tired of his seat on the bench as well and decides he's gonna have some shooting practice...ooof...that'll be one-nil then. Oh, it's all right, don't have to run for that as well...oh okay, well, just cross it in...ooof again, as Bouazza hammers it towards the roof of the net only to be denied by a very fine stop indeed...almost two...Ruddy then did well again to save low to his right only moments later when Dyer could have been making it three in what seemed like as many minutes...and then, just as suddenly as it had got going, it was over.

Funny how you forget about all the bad as soon as some good comes along.

There I am sitting (on the floor) in Dubai, thinking how I'll never fly Emirates again and only hours later I'm (happily) confirming my return flight with them in two weeks' time. There I am sitting in the Rookery, wondering why in the blazes so many people have turned out to watch such utter tripe when only half an hour later I'm already thinking about the second round and the chance of a cup run!

I know it wasn't great. I know it wasn't pretty. I know it wasn't even fun at times (well, most of the time actually), but at least it was football. And that's the best thing about it (for me, at least)...REAL football!

Roll on Argyle. (88 hours to game time.)