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William Hibbert – "Being There"

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.

 

The World Cup is enjoyed around the globe. For some, such as England fan, William Hibbert, being there was everything. Michael Lee caught up with him and found out about the drastic measure he took in order to afford being able to travel to the tournament in South East Asia.
 
When Emile Heskey's thundering shot put England 3-0 up against Denmark in the quarter-final of 2002World Cup, it was the cue for English and Japanese fans to start a conga line they formed snaked around the Niigata Stadium right through to half-time.
 
It was one of the most memorable moments of the tournament and showed English supporters at their best.
 
But it wasn't only the score that the English fans were celebrating. Just being there with a ticket, thousands of miles from home, to experience the magic of a World Cup was a result.
 
The moment that Phil Neville conceded the penalty against Romania that knocked England out of Euro 2000, many England fans began to plan for the 2002 World Cup.
 
Talk to any group of travelling fans and everyone will have a story about the lengths they go to, to follow the team they love.
 
There are fans who've quit their jobs because they needed the time off to travel, fans who blame their divorce on the amount of time they spend away from home, and fans who suffer sleepless nights wondering whether they'll get a ticket to a crucial game.
 
For the dedicated England fan, travelling to England games is not a hobby or a pastime, it's a way of life and they are undaunted by distance, time it will take, or even the cost.
 
England fan William Hibbert knew there was only one way he was going to be able to afford the trip - so he put his London flat up for sale.
 
"The World Cup is one big party," he explains, "there's nothing like it. My first World Cup was France '98 and there are people who have been to loads more than me. But after that, I couldn't bare the thought of missing out ever again.
 
"It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't been, but nothing beats it. There are a lot of people who feel the same way and everyone makes sacrifices to get there.
 
"Of course, it was a huge decision, but in the end, I knew I just had to go. After all, a flat is only bricks and mortar, but the memories are unique."
 
William also had to persuade his girlfriend that his plan was a good one:
 
"In the past, the amount of travel I've done has been a bit of a strain on our relationship. When I first told her my plan she thought I'd gone mad but then I suggested we go together, and she began to warm to the idea! She had as much fun as I did and now I think she's caught the England bug herself."
 
The Football Association estimates that approximately 10,000 English fans travelled to Japan, spending an average of £3,000 per person in the process. For those who stayed out for the entire tournament, and the warm-up matches England played in the Far East against South Korea and Cameroon, the cost was even higher.

But England fans are nothing if not resourceful. Mark Perryman, a long-standing member of englandfans - the Team's Official Supporters Club explains:
 
"For travelling fans it was really the first Internet World Cup. They used the web to find the cheapest flights and accommodation and got some great deals. There are ways of doing things at an affordable price if you're prepared to look for them and there's a really strong community of supporters who help each other with travel advice."
 
For William Hibbert, the start of England's new qualifying campaign presents a whole new challenge.
 
"I've just started my new job as a fireman and I'm already thinking about how I'm going to get to Portugal in 2004. I hope I've got an understanding boss!"

 

 

Michael Lee, October 2002

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