Round the world by train: A Spritely start to Euro 2012

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

We rejoin Kevin Burke’s travels in Singapore where he is getting ready for Euro 2012 but more focussed on finding a big local international rivalry.

It’s 7pm by the time I’ve eaten; the internet says that the Muddy Murphy’s Irish pub is one of the places open for all 31 games of Euro 2012. It shows all major sports events, but not the two Malaysia v Singapore challenge internationals on during the week, which I’d have gladly gone to had I not been in the wrong country each time. There’s a little bit of an edge between the two countries since Singapore broke away from Malaysia in 1965 – there was tension, and eventually riots, as Malaysia was seen to be too interested in Malaysians, which angered Singapore’s Chinese majority – so I thought a regular football challenge would be a bit more high key than it was. For the record, Malaysia win 4-2.

The pub is on Orchard Road, not far from the main shopping thoroughfare with large Gucci, Prada, Burberry and all the other usual suspects. In terms of money, Singapore is a big step up from Malaysia again, although the skyline isn’t particularly high – buildings can “only” go up to 900ft because the airport is so close (still over three times the highest building in Ireland, and that’s a church spire). I find the pub at 8, but as the Ireland game doesn’t start till 2:45am – and as any pub in Singapore is going to be outrageously expensive due to “sin taxes” – I’ve time to go for a walk around town. I head down to Marina Bay, complete with a 5-star hotel/casino.

This is an impressive building. One of the largest casinos in the world, it cost about S$8bn, has 2,561 rooms, 1,600 slot machines, seven celebrity chef restaurants and the boat on top contains a 150-metre swimming pool. One of its two theatres hosted Riverdance for its opening. Michelle Kwan performed to open the ice-rink. The cheapest room for two is a vaguely reasonable S$420 per night. Still, out of budget for this trip.

Across the marina, the Float is closed as it’s being set up, possibly for September’s Formula 1 Grand Prix. A football-pitch-sized platform floating in the marina, it faces a single 30,000 seater-stand and has been used for concerts, football matches and national parades.

There’s only so long I can hang around, though, so I’m back at the pub by 10pm. It’s fairly packed, inside and out; the French Open final is showing on the big screens while Shay Given is interviewed on a telly in the corner. I sip on Sprites till kick-off, but even they’re S$6. At midnight, Paul Dempsey, Gary McAllister and Gary Breen introduce Italy v Spain – Setanta Asia showing regular Setanta. The game doesn’t bode well for our chances of getting out of the group, but at least at full-time, most of the bar empties, and there’s only the 30 or so Irish left. I switch to cider, which is S$17 a pint but needed.

We all know how the rest of the night went, so there only remains to note that at 4:45am, the Singapore trains weren’t yet up and running, so I had to shell out another S$25 for a taxi.

It’s obviously late enough when I get up the next day; I buy a paper and head for cheap chicken fried rice. The paper carries a report on Italy v Spain, but our game was too late to make it in, thankfully. Ray Houghton is the star columnist writing about the tournament. The front page carries the big local controversy of the moment – the Chinese have discovered the joys of the durian, and prices are rocketing as a result. The letters page contains a discussion on the merits of jailing a woman who’d put stickers on pelican crossing buttons – was it art or vandalism? The letters are split 50/50.

This post first appeared on Round the world by train.

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