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Football

Justin Cook’s World Cup Diary - Day 4

Home fans are happy to welcome Justin as an honary BrazilianHome fans are happy to welcome Justin as an honary BrazilianAs I sit here on my leisurely six hour lay over at Brasilia airport on the way to Manaus I have the chance to update you all. Today was the day: the World Cup started in earnest in the ill-fated Arena de São Paulo, hosts Brazil taking on Croatia.

The opening ceremony was really quite gentle and fitting till J-Lo and Pitbull (panto)mimed their way through the World Cup song completely out of sync and then the World Cup started for real.

I watched the game in a local square with the Brazilian community with my good friend Danielle Leonel. The mood had lifted sum what from earlier in the week and although there was rioting going on in Rio & Belo Horitonze and the protestors had tried to block the road to the SP stadium, it was on.

Brazil started rather poorly and Croatia were all over them taking the fight to their front door but then the shock of Marcelo scoring a home goal and gifting the lead to Croatia stunned the arena and the community square and you could see the look of horror on all the beautiful faces.

Brazil seemed not to be creating the chances they should of been considering the talent they have in their ranks and Croatia kept sweeping down the left wing pinging balls straight into the box.

Home fans in celebratory moodHome fans in celebratory moodThen it happened...the softest penalty you have ever seen and Neymar stepped up and fired it like a bullet off the desperate hands of the keeper and into the net. 1-1. Marcelo sighed a relief I bet.

Croatia came back strong but David Luiz and Oscar started to really come into their own and more than once Luiz saved Brazils bacon defending the balls coming into the box.

At times it was like watching Chelsea with Luiz and Oscar having a six sense together. Croatia were still not beaten but when Neymar slotted the second in from a great pass from Oscar the writing was on the wall.

The third goal was personally my favourite with Oscar toe punting it past the keeper with a brilliant bit of skill, and deservedly Oscar was named man of the match. Marcelo however was really beaten up by Croatia and I bet his shins are very sore after Croatia kept bringing him down again and again all night.

Also A few yellow cards were given in the match must notably from Neymar deliberately giving Luka Modric a forearm smash into the face and really being the World Cup should of been a straight red in my opinion and for sure home court advantage played a huge part in it only being a yellow and without a doubt in my view the ref bottled it due to the stature of the occasion.

If it had been Howard Webb it would of been a straight red.

Neymar will have to be very careful going forward as he now has a yellow that carries into the next match and anymore petulance from the baby faced thumb sucker and Brazil will loose talisman in the vital group stage.

So all in all the first game of the tournament did not disappoint and Croatia gave a good account of themselves but I am afraid just not good enough.

Also during the match the sound of fireworks and bangers could be heard everywhere in the city and indeed in the square and you felt the city of São Paulo rocking.

Oh yes, and so far I’ve only seen two England fans eating in a bar. I guess they must be all up in Manaus getting caught out by the sun in a classic mad dogs and Englishman scenario but will confirm that later when I arrive at approximately 7am tomorrow.

This was not a classic Brazil performance and Croatia caused them problems right to the end, but a win is win, however scrappy, and I think that the happiest face in the arena was Dilma Rousseff the Brazil president who almost jumped into the heavens with the result, as Brazil delivered the only result that she really needed to justify the costs incurred both financially and socially to the country of Brazil.

Sitting next to Rousseff was Sept Blatter surely realising this could be his last tournament of enjoying his seat in the gods and mentally preparing for his future seating arrangements in the cheap seats.

The atmosphere in the square was awesome with young and old all jumping for joy for the win and you it struck me that Brazil really needs to win this tournament for the sake of unity within Brazil but when they come up against a decent team I think things could be different.

So with my heavy eyes I will bed down on this concrete floor for a couple of hours of shut eye in the penthouse in the basement. The signs were all there this was going to be a great snooze.

Read Day 3 here

Read Day 5 here

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Justin Cook’s World Cup Diary - Day 3

Maurice Plas Jnr and Snr outside PlasMaurice Plas Jnr and Snr outside PlasI was walking down the Rua Augusta today and came across this tailor’s shop called Plas.

It looked an interesting shop and I sensed there was a story to be told so I went in.

I was greeted by Maurice Plas Jnr and after a while chatting he introduced me to his father Maurice Snr and his mum, Gisela. We talked a while and the most amazing story unfolded.

Maurice Plas and Jean his brother were tailors and hat makers, trained in France and born in Normandy.

They met with another tailor called Joseph Goldman who came from Poland. Maurice and his brother were convinced by Joseph to leave Europe after WW2 and start a new life.

Maurice and his brother wanted to go to Canada, but Joseph convinced them to travel to Brazil instead and so in 1949 the twenty-something Plas brothers and their friend Joseph Goldman, aged forty years or so, left France and headed for Brazil looking for something better after the horrors that took place in the previous ten year period.

Justin with Maurice Snr and GiselaJustin with Maurice Snr and GiselaThey arrived in São Paulo and started to build a tailoring business together that lasted till 1954 when the Plas brothers decided to go their own way and split from Joseph, setting up their own stand alone tailoring and hat making business.

They opened their shop on the Rua Augusta in 1954 and called it Plas. The Plas brothers then set about converting the bohemian theatre actors of the day, who had made the Rua Augusta their hang out, into wearing colourful berets and hats, the legend began.

Now let's leave Maurice and Jean there for a minute and talk about Maurice's wife to be, Gisela Christine.

Gisela was born in Germany, in June 1939. At the outbreak of World War Two, Gisela's father was a German infantry officer posted at the front line and really no different to the English or American front line soldiers caught up in a desperate and bitter conflict that would scar all sides for years to come.

In 1947 Gisela was shipped out on the first departing ship from Germany to Brazil at the tender age of seven.

Gisela was allowed to leave Germany on this first ship due to her mother and grandfather being born in Brazil. Her father was still interned in the UK in a POW camp until he was later allowed to also depart for Brazil.

Gisela and Maurice met at a party in the summer of 1960 and fell in love. They married and had two children, Maurice Jnr and Robert. Jean Plas died in 1969 and Joseph Goldman died in the 1990s.

Robert PlasRobert PlasToday Maurice Jnr runs the sales side of the business at Plas and his younger brother Robert has followed in his fathers footsteps and become a tailor.

Maurice Snr, now aged 82, still tailors today and this historical business looks to run for another generation to come.

I felt this story needed to be recounted, especially as we have just remembered the fallen of WW2 and personally it's a real pleasure to have been able to tell the Plas story in this way.

This family are a warm and special kind of people and I would certainly recommend anyone visiting São Paulo to take a trip down to the Plas shop on the Rua Augusta and buy a hat or have a fine suit made.

I have purchased a wonderful hat and am proudly wearing it now as I sit here having my strict one-a-day caipirinha watching out onto the enchanted streets of São Paulo with it's many different stories of many different people

I feel the soul of the city soaking into me... oops just ordered another one!

Read Day 1 here

Read Day 2 here

Read Day 4 here

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Our man in Brazil - Justin Cook reports from the World Cup for Marlborough News Online

I first fell in love with football when I attended the Euros when they were last in the UK. The game I attended was at Wembley with Scotland verses England.

In the space of two minutes David Seamen saved a penalty taken by Mcalister. Then it went down the other end and Gazza lobbed the ball over the Scottish defence and volleyed it into Scotland’s goal.

I was sitting in the stands behind Scotland's goal. It has left an imprint on me for life.

So, the time has finally come, the biggest footballing tournament on the planet is returning back to Brazil.

The last time Brazil hosted the tournament was back in 1950 when they lost out in the final to Uruguay 2-1, played out at the legendary Maracana stadium in Rio.

Justin Cook at the Maracana stadium in BrazilJustin Cook at the Maracana stadium in BrazilI decided to attend this magical festival of football as soon as England qualified and have been slowly saving the pennies to fund this wallet denting fiesta of fun for the last seven months.

I made the commitment to attend the World Cup based on the youth contained in the England squad as it's been an age of disappointment with England since 1966.

I don't really think we can win the tournament this year but to just make it out of our group would be fantastic. The age old questions still apply... will Cahill and Jagielka be strong enough? Will Rooney under perform again on his last realistic World Cup showing?

There are however many positives also. Luke Shaw, in my opinion, is a fantastic prospect but is yet to be tested on the big stage. Hart in goal seems confident and sharp again but Rob Green played a blinder in the FA Cup with QPR and makes a brilliant number two.

The midfield is oozing talented youth and with the stewardship of the ‘midfield general’ Stevie Gerrard I do believe that Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling can and will make a huge impact on the tournament.

With Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert alongside a firing Rooney this could represent the best team for a generation since the Scholes/Beckham era. To say I am excited is a real understatement. I will be checking in from time to time by sending blogs and pictures to Marlborough News Online.

I really want to give all the football fans of Marlborough a taste of ‘Brasil 2014’ so everyone keep your fingers crossed for the boys and long may their tournament run!

Update

So I touched down at 6am today (Monday) onto Brazilian soil and the first surprise is that my bags are still in London and will not arrive until tomorrow morning. Not surprised really as think the phantom of T2 and it's new opening has caused this.

The airport is full of fans - mostly Mexicans and they are so pumped up - singing their lungs out. Also São Paulo metro workers still on strike so it's going to be gridlock in the city.

Waiting for my bus to take me to the Paulista. The vibe is excellent though and I can feel something building… what is building is not quite clear yet.

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Ladies soccer team seeks new players

Marlborough Town LadiesMarlborough Town LadiesMarlborough Town Ladies football club is looking for new players. Training takes place every Wednesday evening at Marlborough Football Club, Elcot Lane, and the Women's Wiltshire League club is open to players of all ages and abilities.

For more information, email team captain Sarah-Jayne Thomas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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