Sky Sports News
Piranhas and protests: Manaus set for England v Italy
Sky Sports News' Geraint Hughes reflects on a demanding day as Manaus prepares to welcome the England squad ahead of Saturday's World Cup clash with Italy.
Last Updated: 12/06/14 11:44am
What a crazy day! By far and away the most demanding day I have had in Brazil since I arrived over a fortnight ago and I'll include last summer when I covered the Confederations Cup as well. An absolute blitz on the senses.
Why? Well first thing I was travelling to the Arena Amazonia and myself and my truly fantastic crew of cameraman, fixer and engineers stumbled over a small group of protestors. It was all very peaceful. Where are you going I asked? The reply - to the stadium, to the stadium!
There 400, maybe 500, protestors gathered and proceeded to cause chaos. They blocked roads, defied police and made as much noise as they possibly could.
Cicero ou Sassa, a Construction union rep whose workers built the World Cup stadium said they were angry over poor pay and conditions and broken promises. He blamed not only the government, but FIFA.
He promised the protestors would return and in greater numbers, he wouldn't say whether he meant on Saturday when England play Italy, but promised 90,000 protestors will take to the streets when Portugal play the USA as the city has close historical ties with Portugal and it's a game that is being targeted.
Eventually the protests dispersed. It was peacefully, but certainly at one point an air of tension as police and protestors eyeballed one another. It was the police who backed down.
From there we drove to the port area of Manaus and to its famous fishing market where all kinds of river fish were on display including a few piranha! I've never seen that fish close up, just in an aquarium and on television, but initially they looked not that unfriendly, but then the close you look, the more ugly, violent they become. Thank goodness they weren't alive! The locals think piranha is a poor fish to eat, tasteless and of poor quality so it tends to be cheap and not caught in huge numbers.
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From the market, off to meet Nacional FC, the best team in Manaus. They'll play next season in the Fourth Division of the Brazilian Championship and let us come along to watch them train in what we thought would be conditions mirroring the heat and humidity England and Italy will spar against one another on Saturday.
This part of the world has weather more unpredictable than the UK. From hot and steamy to a torrential downpour which cooled everything, and then an incredible electrical storm.
The pitch Nacional played on coped well, certainly better than the pitch at the Arena Amazonia might following worrying pictures showing yellowish lines and bare patches at one end of the stadiums pitch.
Leonardo Lopez, a defensive midfielder for Nacional told me in perfect English that the way for England to play in heavy rain in Manaus is to keep the ball in the air and keep the crosses flowing. If it's hot and humid, Lopez laughed "drink lots of water, it's difficult, but the sun will have gone down so we play at that time just like anyone else.
Roy Hogdson take note - that's great local weather related-cum-football advice. And it was genuine, Lopez wants and thinks England will win. "Italy are old. England are young. They can do it."