Sunday, June 17, 2012
The worst hangover of the tour necessitates an extra night at Hotel 12, most of which is spent in bed trying to catch up with beauty sleep.
In the evening I get myself down to the Mettalist Stadium for the match between Portugal and Holland and almost knock former England manager Graham Taylor to the ground as I sprint past him to the press centre to pick up my press pass.
The Dutch simply must win to stay in the tournament and when they take the lead through Van der Vaart, they look like they can cruise to victory. But something is seriously amiss with the Dutch team and once Portugal take control of the match, Holland are a spent force. Ronaldo is on fire and could conceivably have scored five. There seems to be very little fight or team spirit in the Dutch camp. They are about to crash out of the tournament with zero points and yet there is very little urgency on the pitch. The same could be said of their fans, most of whom remain seated and silent while Portugal tear them apart. Portugal 2 Holland 1 – the Dutch are going home.
Back in town, it is 28 degrees at midnight and the party is in the main park next to the square. The park is full of bars and clubs and it is absolutely buzzing. We are on our backs at the number of black and Middle Eastern people living in Kharkiv, many of whom are partying to the max around the fountains. I have never seen such a rich diversity of nationalities in any other city in the former USSR and it adds to the many pluses of this very cool city.
After clubbing in the park till six we find some taxis parked up next to the towering statue of Lenin, negotiate a fare in Russian, and set off home in a Lada discussing Ukrainian politics and corruption with our driver. For the Dutch it's a case of Goodbye Lenin!