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21 days ago
By Nick Harris

Football woes in the MotoGP™ paddock

Ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final, Nick Harris recalls some not-so-happy memories of being an English football fan in the paddock

Football and MotoGP™ just don’t mix if you are English. At least this weekend while the paddock in Mugello settles down to watch the Champions League final on Saturday night there will be an English winner but may I assure you that’s a pretty rare occurrence while I was on the road.

The meeting room in the IRTA truck or the Alpine Stars Hospitality unit have been the venue for many an English football fans misery over the last two decades. Empty pizza boxes and cans of beer scattered on the IRTA meeting room table interspersed with language I’m certainly not proud of as England crashed to another defeat in a major tournament once again. Jeremy Appleton at Alpine Stars inviting us to dinner after yet another bitter exit from a tournament although hopefully the language was a little more measured this time round.

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The MotoGP football match in Barcelona

Having somebody whisper in my ear during the Saturday afternoon qualifying press conference at Donington Park that Wayne Rooney had been sent off against Portugal in the quarter-final of the 2006 World Cup. Setting my alarm to go off at 2am on the morning of the MotoGP™ race in Barcelona five years ago to watch the end of England’s World Cup clash with Italy in Brazil. Turning on the television to see a dejected England goalkeeper Joe Hart walking off the pitch was enough to realise the score. At least I got some more sleep on race day. It was the Italians celebrating the next day led by Valentino Rossi who then finished second in the 25 lap race after a fantastic battle with Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.

Driving up and down the Barcelona paddock on a Sunday evening in Matt Roberts’ car with large Union Jack fluttering out of the window before an England France European Championship game in 2004. The Union Jack was nowhere in sight when we drove out two hours later after France scored two goals in injury time to win by two goals to one.

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Viñales' MotoGP™ football dream team

I have had a few rare moments of relief with my local team Oxford United although it’s often been the same bumpy ride as England. Three years ago I had a text message telling me the ‘yellows’ had been promoted after beating local rivals Wycombe Wanderers. The trouble was it was in the middle of the Qualifying press conference and I was just of asking Jorge Lorenzo about his pole position in Le Mans and so it was celebrations all round.

Who will ever forget that incredible pre-event football match six years ago when the combined Moto2™ and 3 teams took on the mighty MotoGP™ team. Nothing that out of the ordinary apart from the venue – the home of Barcelona FC the Nou Camp. The riders plying their skills on one of the most hallowed pieces of turf on the planet. They even played the Barcelona anthem when the teams came up those famous steps onto the pitch although I did get told off by the groundsman for stepping onto the grass.

MotoGP™ and football are alike in so many ways and at least this weekend half the English fans in the Mugello paddock will be happy on Saturday night. That’s half more than usual but don’t mention that to any Liverpool or Spurs supporters.

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Where else would Marquez like to play football?

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