Inside The Mixed Zone
Of course, there was no real need for me to be in the “Mixed Zone”, the area where the players meet the press after the match. I speak no Portuguese at all beyond “obrigado”, and my Spanish probably prevents me from doing a great deal more than asking Victor Valdes for a two beers and a ham sandwich, por favor. The journalists are split into three areas, TV, photographers, and journalists, and I stood with the journalists, wracked with a fear that one of them would come up to me, expecting me to ask them a question. “So, then Xavi – do you know the way to the railway station?”.
The clear difference was in the demeanour of the players. I may not be able to speak any Portuguese, but when Mauricio, our Brazilian, asked their striker Fernandao a question, I don’t think any of us were prepared for the length of his answer. As the surrounding hacks started to drift away (and this accelerated upon the emergence of the goal-scorer, Adriano – the majority of people were nudged in his direction by Perdigao standing behind him, shouting, “talk to him! he scored the goal!”), I started to get the fear that I would be left on my own with him, smiling idiotically and shrugging my shoulders. The Barca players were altogether more curt. Eider Gudjohnsen responded to a question about the Champions League draw by saying that he had other things on his mind right now, and Deco, who was apparently seen out boozing and smoking on Friday night, apparently got a bit short with one hack, even though he won a giant key and a Toyota Prius for his goal against Club America.
By contrast, the Internacionale president positively waltzed through the zone, possibly having drunk the lion’s share of a couple of bottles of champagne, with a smile the width of the Rio Grande and the trophy in his hands, singing the Inter club song. Given the looks on the faces of Valdes, Gudjohnsen and Deco, I didn’t much fancy the idea of hanging round for Ronaldinho. He might start blubbering or something, and that would be unbearable. For some reason, I think he might get very dribbly when he cries.