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Last Updated:  Saturday, 15 February, 2003, 09:38 GMT

Time for the singing to begin
By Phil Long
BBC Sport's man with the Barmy Army

It's been a long time coming but at last the 2003 World Cup is about to get under way for both the England team and the fans who've travelled to South Africa to cheer them on.

England's fans have followed them from Australia to South Africa
The Barmy Army are in good voice

To be honest, for most of us out here, the start of the opening game against Holland can't come soon enough.

First of all we had the various attempts to secure tickets for the games involving England only to find ourselves thwarted by the big-boy tour operators who bought them up by the fist load.

Then we had the ICC lottery which left most England fans with tickets to see them play only Holland and fellow minnows Namibia.

And if that wasn't enough, the on-off saga of the Zimbabwe game left English supporters dotted all over South Africa trying to second guess the intentions of the ICC Technical Committee.

It has meant that the e-mail accounts of the Barmy Army members have been brim full of numerous plans of action for weeks.

So when it was announced that the game against Zimbabwe might be rescheduled on a different date, and at a different venue, my own hotmail account went into meltdown.

With England supporters keen to be invited to the World Cup party sooner rather than later, there were probably three or four hundred English fans at Port Elizabeth for the encounter between New Zealand and the West Indies.

It looks as if the Black Caps won't be lacking in vocal support during the tournament.

However, enquire as to whether they are part of the infamous 'Mad Caps' formed last year to take on the Barmy Army at their own game and you'll immediately be told where to stick your England flag!

Graeme Hick batting in Peshawar
England played Holland at the 1996 World Cup

When England finally kick off our campaign against Holland in East London, it will be interesting to see how many supporters have overcome the various obstacles and have made their way to support Nasser and the boys.

On a personal note, I hope it'll be a whole lot easier than the journey I had to undertake to see England's last World Cup game versus Holland.

Back in the 1996 competition we had to negotiate one of the most fortified border crossings in the world between India and Pakistan and then head up the Grand Trunk Road to the foot of the Khyber Pass to Peshawar.

It was a journey to test the mettle of even the most die-hard England fan and, if memory serves correctly, there were 17 of us there to cheer England on to one of their two victories in the tournament.

Links to more World Cup stories


Move over Jack Kerouac
29 Nov 02 |  The Ashes
Drowning English sorrows
25 Nov 02 |  The Ashes

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