Flying the World Cup flag for England
Keep an eye on the stands at tonight’s World Cup match between England and Belgium for a huge flag of St George emblazoned with the name Newark Town FC.
It belongs to England fan Joe Bass, of Newark, who is following the national team at Russia 2018.
Joe, of Newark, who is keeping a World Cup diary that is being published on the Football Association’s website, is attending his third World Cup — having also been at Brazil 2014 and South Africa 2010.
“Those two were flops in footballing terms so I am hoping for better things this time, or it will be divorce,” said Joe.
“Although I think I said that last time.”
Joe believes England will meet the host nation in the final and has tickets for the match.
“We have had a cracking start,” he said.
“The last-minute Harry Kane goal against Tunisia and the hatful against Panama have really given us belief.
“After that goal against Tunisia all the England fans went a little bit wild. I was hugging complete strangers.
“With the score at 1-1 we all thought, ‘here we go again.’
“But the last-minute goal seemed to change everything in an instant.
“We felt we had shaken off the psychological voodoo that has plagued us for so long. I was elated. We all were.
“Even the Russians had been swept along by the excitement.
“When I went to take my flag down they came up to me to have their photos taken with it — men, children, families.
“I was there for half-an-hour with the flag.
“Even after the match, on the streets people were coming up to me asking for photos and wanting to talk about the match. We felt like celebrities.
“The flag is four times the regulation size but folds up quite small, so I can sneak it past stewards.
“It has been draped across the gantry at both England matches for the world to see. I have also displayed it at the FIFA Fan Fests.”
There was concern before the tournament over how the home nation would treat England fans, particularly after the poisoning in Salisbury of former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter, Yulia, was blamed on Russia.
However, Joe said: “The Russians have been very friendly, hospitable and helpful.
“They are proud of their country.
“It is their World Cup and they want us to return home with rich experiences.
“I was with Russian fans on the Metro after the opening match in Moscow. I was wearing my England shirt but they showed me no hostility.
“They just wished me good luck, wanted to know where I was from, and which team I supported at home.
“I had a lot of negative comments before I went, but I did not listen. Russia is not about the ultras (violent hooligans), Russia is ordinary people with big hearts.”
Aside from the football, Joe’s highlights have been visiting The Motherland Calls monument in Volgograd, one of the tallest in the world, and bumping into a friend he made at the World Cup in Brazil.
What does Joe predict for tonight?
“Against Belgium, Southgate should carry on the momentum, play all the big players and go for a win,” he said.
“I predict a close match, but England to win 2-1.
“Are we going to win the World Cup? Just before the kick-off against Tunisia one of the England fans urged us all to support the team.
“He roared: ‘This is going to be England’s year. This is going to be England’s World Cup.’ I’ve got a funny feeling he might be right.”