World Cup superfan, 61, attends ninth tournament of his lifetime

Terry Matson   (Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)
Terry Matson (Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)

An England superfan is living his dream at his ninth World Cup, 40 years after travelling to Spain to watch his first tournament.

Terry Matson was in Mexico to witness Maradonna’s ‘hand of God’ goal and in Italy for the penalty shoot-out against Germany that saw England out.

His conclusion after all the ups and downs he has endured is that England are just “unpredictable”.

He was given a ticket to Spain ‘82 as a 21st birthday present from his parents and has missed only two tournaments since.

Terry’s love of football has now taken him to Qatar, where Gareth Southgate’s men look set to make it into the knockout stages.

The 61-year-old bricklayer from Kent has gone there with his son, where he has met other fans he knows from previous tournaments to cheer England on in their win over Iran.

Speaking just before England’s draw with the US, Terry said the stadium’s alcohol ban had not dampened his enjoyment of the games.

He said: “We found a place in the city centre who are showing the games on a massive screen. You are paying over the top but we are in comfort.

“Everywhere is air conditioned. You feel the air coming up the back of your legs in the stadiums.”

 (Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)
(Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)

The cheapest beer is Corona at £8.50 and he says he was charged £27 for three tiny glass bottles of Coca-cola and a cappuccino at one plush hotel when seeking shelter from heat.

He added: “So far, it has been really good.

“The hospitality has been spot on, the Metro has been unbelievable. It’s being run really well.

“I am with my son and you get out here and you just meet people from all over the country, also people we have met in Russia and Japan, from previous tournaments.

“Some are staying in Dubai and getting a shuttle flight across. We used to organise meeting up but a lot of people are getting older now.

“I believe the best supported country is Mexico. We went to the game against Poland and were right there with the Mexican fans singing and having photos with them.”

 (Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)
(Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)

“They really love their football. It was just a pity it wasn’t a good game. But we are enjoying it here, filling up days going to games.

“There are so many checks to get in, they are checking the flags, and no one has been able to download their tickets, it’s a bit chaotic really.

“They did check in Russia too, but I think they are checking for any demonstrations, if anyone has a flag that has anything written on it that it shouldn’t.”

Asked what he thinks of England’s chances, Terry said: “I never make any predictions because having seen it all England are always so unpredictable at every single tournament.

“I always say it is in the hands of the manager and the players, it’s not down to me.”

 (Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)
(Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)

Terry says security is taken very seriously in the capital city of Doha but he has not observed any issues.

He said: “There has been no problems that we have seen so far. We have come across fans from Argentina and Mexico and they have talked to us.

“There is police everywhere but you only see a few with pistols and pepper spray.”

Over the last 40 years, Terry has been all over the globe to roar on the Three Lions but this will be his first time watching them take centre stage in the Arab world.

Qatar is reported to have spent in excess of £185 billion hosting the World Cup, dwarfing the £11.6bn the Russians piled into the tournament.

 (Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)
(Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)

But as the 32 teams gather in Doha the country’s human rights record is also being thrown into the spotlight.

It comes amid ongoing suffering among workers, women and the LGBTQ+ community in the country.

Terry said: “I’m totally against all that. You can’t say you don’t want LGBTQ+ people here.”

He doesn’t believe Qatar should have been awarded hosting rights in the first place but he said a “one-man” boycott is ineffective, adding: “It means more to them at the top than everyone else.”

The Arsenal fan also said organising his trip to the Middle East has been “more hassle” than past tournaments with “email after email” and money wasted on PCR tests that are no longer needed.

The sale of alcohol is strictly controlled in Qatar and an 11th hour U-turn on the sale of beer in stadiums has also riled fans.

Terry said: “They are making up the rules as they go along. It’s nice to be outside the stadium and have a beer, especially when it is hot. But it is their country and their rules.

“Where we are now you can’t get a beer absolutely anywhere. In the hotel you’re OK, but once you go out it’s mainly lemonade and fizzy water.

“It’s not as if you want to get drunk or anything, just have a beer in the sun and watch the game.”

Qatar reneged on its decision to allow alcohol to be sold in the stadiums, though it said non-alcoholic beer would still be available.

Terry has missed only two World Cups since attending Spain, where England – under the old format – were eliminated after the second group stage.

He stayed at home for USA ‘94 following England’s failure to qualify and was forced to miss France ‘98 at the last minute after suffering a trapped nerve in his back.

He said: “How ironic. The closest World Cup to home and I had to miss it. It was the sciatic nerve. The pain was excruciating.”

 (Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)
(Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)

Of all the hard-luck stories, Maradona’s infamous Hand of God goal that helped Argentina knock England out in the quarter-finals in 1986 is perhaps the most talked about.

The semi-final penalty shoot-out defeat by West Germany in Italia ‘90 isn’t far behind it.

Terry recalled: “We didn’t know for sure that Maradona had handballed it.

“There were no screens at the stadium in those days and we were down the other end.

“Rumour got round because we saw Peter Shilton putting his hand up and it only takes one person to say he must have punched it in the net.

“It wasn’t till we got back to the hotel in the evening or in the bar afterwards that we saw the replays and found out.

“The other goal he scored that day was incredible – he went past about five England players, I’ll give him that – but he ruined my World Cup.

“I’d saved up and waited all that time to go out there and he did that.

“There weren’t many England fans – we were heavily outnumbered by the Argentina fans and the Mexicans seemed to be supporting them, too.

“We got held back at the bottom of the staircase after the game and the Argentina fans came round to bait us.

“All this was only four years after the Falklands War, of course, and there were problems throughout the evening.

“You do get caught up in quite a lot of political situations following England.”

Italia ‘90 set the tone for England’s bad luck with penalty shoot-outs, as Bobby Robson’s side lost to West Germany.

They returned as heroes after a difficult period for English football as a whole, with clubs banned from European competition in light of the 1985 Heysel disaster.

Six years earlier Terry had the pleasure of meeting Robson at a hotel in South America where the Three Lions were on tour.

He said: “I’ve never seen so many England fans who, emotionally, couldn’t handle what happened after the Germany game.

“We thought that was the nearest we were going to get to seeing England win another World Cup.

“There were so many people crying outside, but that’s football.

“It was a decade of football hooligans, you had the miners’ strikes, the Brixton riots, the Toxteth riots, the country was full of conflict and aggression.”

 (Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)
(Courtesy Terry Matson / SWNS)

He continued: “It was anarchy leading up to that tournament, with fighting on the terraces and all that. It wasn’t a good place.

“We gave our all in that semi-final but it wasn’t enough. When you go out of the World Cup, you just want to get home, but it seemed to take forever to get back.”

The chance to visit the Far East – a part of the world Terry never expected to see – made the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea one to remember.

He saw David Beckham’s penalty sink Argentina in the group stage but there was more misery as Ronaldinho lobbed David Seaman from 40 yards as Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side lost 2-1 to Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Four years later, in Germany, this was supposed to be England’s time, with the so-called golden generation.

Wayne Rooney’s red card left Eriksson’s side up against it and they were knocked out on penalties.

That was the one tournament where Terry made the mistake of thinking England were on to something.

He said: “I thought we had a good chance of winning that one.”

Terry scored a result for himself though when, ticketless for the quarter-final against Portugal, he was offered a free seat in the hospitality section by a fellow England fan outside the ground.

He said: “I had a stroke of luck getting the ticket. I had £500 rolled up and this bloke came up and said he had a spare ticket.

“He was in a group of four who worked for an electrical company and one of the partners couldn’t make it.

“He wouldn’t take any money for it, I just had to buy him a couple of programmes.

“As we got to the turnstiles, he asked me who I supported. I smiled and he said, ‘You aren’t an Arsenal fan, are you?’. It turned out he was a Spurs season-ticket holder.

“We had a three-course meal, German brass bands, free beer…it was great. But, obviously, the usual thing happened with England and we lost that one.”

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa provided more disappointment on the pitch as England, after limping through the group stage, crashed 4-1 to Germany in the second round.

But it goes down as Terry’s favourite, as it gave him the chance to return to a country he had visited with his dad.

He said: “All the World Cup trips have been good in their different ways. Spain, as the first one; Mexico, for the sun and the sea and the heat; Germany, for the drinking and the friends we made.

“But I like my military history and there’s a lot of history in South Africa, with the Zulu War and the Boer War.

“I’d been there with my late father to visit the battlefields and so to be able to go there with friends, that just tips it for me as my favourite.

“It was a disaster on the pitch and we were even worse in Brazil four years later, where we were out after two games.

“I’ve certainly seen some places. The Far East was somewhere I never thought I’d get to go – that was brilliant – and then going into deepest Russia to Volgograd and seeing trams that probably survived the Second World War still going.

“I’ve spent thousands over the years but, like I always say, if you can afford to put away £25 a week – some people spend that on cigarettes – that’s £100 a month, £1,200 a year and in four years you’ve got £4,800. There’s your World Cup money.”