WHEN Chelsea scraped through to the final of the Europa League, my son decided that, as a fan, he should make every effort to be in Baku, cheering them on.
I warned him this would be tricky. I was there last year and to get home I had to fly for three hours in the wrong direction before I could get a seven-hour flight back to London.
He was undeterred though. It would be his first European final. And it was against Arsenal. He had to be there.
And so, last weekend he boarded a flight to Moscow, where he waited for several hours for another to Tbilisi.
Which is in Georgia. Which is not Azerbaijan. Which is where Baku is.
Here, after a night in a hotel, he boarded a train for a 13-hour overnight trip, in third class, to Baku.
And when he finally arrived at the Chelsea office, broke and exhausted, he was told he could not have his ticket . . . because it wasn’t in his name.
He explained that it was in the name of his godfather, who’d given it to him as a present, but they wouldn’t budge. More than my job’s worth, etc.
Chelsea have to know that this isn’t good enough. If someone has made that much effort and spent that much money to travel to watch you play, you have to be a little bit flexible.
I mean, it’s not like the stadium was full. I’ve seen bigger crowds in a library. And heard more noise.
This is because Baku, technically, isn’t actually in Europe. I know that when it comes to singing contests, Europe now seems to include Israel and even Australia, but in reality it ends where Azerbaijan starts.
The final was held there because its government was able to offer more money to Uefa than a convenient location like, say, Belgium.
And it’s because of that money that the big clubs can afford to spend £100million every time the transfer window cracks open a little bit.
This is the problem. For the game to be a global colossus, it must have cash.
This means following the money. Which is why the final was held in the oil-rich city of Baku.
It’s why the World Cup final is being held in the even more oil-rich state of Qatar.
And it’s why, if oil is ever discovered on the moon, fans will be expected to go there to watch games.
The tragedy is that so much of football’s appeal is the atmosphere.
And unless the stadium is rammed with real fans, chanting at the top of their voices, you may as well play the game under water.
The good news, from my son’s point of view, is that I was able to get him a replacement ticket. (I could have got him about 25,000). And that Chelsea won.
This means, of course, he is coming home now with a catastrophic hangover.
Still, it could be worse. He could be an Arsenal fan.
Those poor buggers had to make the long trip back to London with absolutely nothing at all.
Howzat! At last
CRICKET was invented nearly 600 years ago, and this week, finally, something interesting happened during a game.
A man called Ben Stokes, who was lounging around at the edge of the pitch in a pair of blue pyjamas, suddenly turned into Mr Tickle and made what’s being described as the catch of the century.
I’ve seen it on YouTube, and it is impressive.
You know when the meteorites hit New York at the beginning of Armageddon. Well it’d be like catching one of those.
BoJo all the way
THERE are now more people standing to be leader of the Conservative Party than there are people who’ll vote on who gets the job.
Initially I wanted the contest to be won by Esther McVey’s hair, which is a magnificent life force of its own, but sadly, it’s attached to a woman who thinks parents should decide what kids do at school, not teachers.
So she’s mad and delusional.
By far and away the most impressive contestant is Rory Stewart.
A former soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he bothered to learn the lingo.
I watched him on social media this week explaining why No Deal Brexit is a bad idea.
I’ve never known and now, thanks to him, I do.
In short, it means milk would fall in price from 25p a pint to about 24p.
But this would be irrelevant as no one would have a job. So no one would be able to afford it no matter how little it cost.
He went on to say that our farming industry would be wiped out and that the car industry would go next. And it all made sense.
He seemed like a genuinely good man.
A genuinely bright man. And genuinely sensible man.
But he can’t possibly win because he has a genuinely weird face.
So. It’ll be Boris then.
Holden out for more
IT appears that after Amanda Holden appeared on television this week in a pretty dress, some people complained to Ofcom that it was too revealing.
Really? They were so appalled, they looked up Ofcom’s address and then composed an angry letter, demanding action.
If Amanda – who also got complaints about a revealing dress on BGT in 2017 – made a tourniquet out of rubber tubing and injected herself with heroin, I could understand the wrath.
Or if she’d strangled a puppy.
But a dress that showed a bit of boob? Do me a favour.
I might write and complain that actually, I could do with seeing a bit more.
I fear that as Jonathan’s a bit portly these days, he should respond by suggesting a spelling test instead.
Military coo? No chance
WHEN Malawi’s new president took office this week, the capital was filled with the most fearsome-looking soldiers you’ve ever seen.
They were definitely prepared for every eventuality.
They had one pair of sunglasses on their nose and, if these should fall off, another on their helmet. Which was also home to two pairs of binoculars.
Elbow protection patches were worn lower down the arm. Why? In case they fell on their wrist.
Naturally, they also had gas masks and guns, and gloves with holes for the trigger finger, and the little finger, in case the trigger finger was lost in some way.
Best of all though, along the helmet and the shoulder pads, there were little spikes to make sure a pigeon didn’t land on them when they were standing guard.
MOST READ IN OPINION
John Cleese’s tweet proves he is an ex comedian, he has ceased to be funny
THE SUN SAYS
Baroness Wheatcroft’s Brexit tirade is staggering — and we’re better off OUT
Remainers’ Brexit denial will see Nigel Farage burst Westminster bubble for good
No Deal Brexit is NO big deal — we could have £39bn and free-flowing trade
Jailing lying politicians – will we have to clear cells to make way for this lot?
THE SUN SAYS
John Bercow’s blatant bias and bloated ego pose serious risk to our democracy
Judge Romesh? OK then… BBC2’s The Ranganation is a real irritation
Criticising Charlie Dimmock for putting on weight is horribly unfair… she still looks great
We’ve paid EU £16bn in tariffs for NON-EU goods — customs union is a racket
Fag end of fags
NOT that long ago, just about all of my friends smoked. And all of my friends’ children.
Today though, almost everyone has got fed up of standing in the rain outside pubs and given up. Even me.
So, what exactly was the point of yesterday’s World No Tobacco Day?
You may as well have a World No Burning Witches Day. Or a World Beat the Black Death Day.
Smoking’s over. Move on.