How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 55

Kevin McNair took his usual stool at the bar of his local and ordered a beer. He couldn’t remember ever being so excited about a World Cup as this one. Not just because he was hoping to make a large profit, but as a true Scotsman he was expecting his country to win the thing and send millions of Scots into an endless party of celebration around the world.

His injuries were almost completely cleared up now and his limp had all but gone. He had seen Ferraro once since the beating but he left him alone after giving McNair a nasty glare across a crowded street. That was a couple of weeks ago and he had heard since that he had been arrested, along with a local police officer who he recognised as being the one who interviewed him after the attack. Good thing he didn’t give the copper Ferraro’s name.

Speaking Spanish was difficult for McNair, but from what he could make out in the local papers Ferraro had been caught with €5 million worth of good quality cocaine which he had just landed on a boat in one of the local bays. The police had been watching him after one of their officers tipped them off. Turns out officer Tavares was caught taking a backhander from Ferraro one evening and arrested. To make it easier on him, Tavares offered all sorts of information on Ferraro and his gang which lead to his apprehension on the beach.

Tavares would still go to trial and would probably get a custodial sentence but it would have to be a long way from Fuengirola as Ferraro had contacts inside who would make life difficult for Tavares. As it transpired, Tavares never got the chance of going to court as his body was found buried on some wasteland ten kilometres from Fuengirola, badly beaten up and shot for good measure. It was obviously Ferraro behind the killing, but proving it was going to be difficult as he was behind bars in custody at the time. His two minders had disappeared not long after and had probably escaped into North Africa through Ceuta, a small Spanish enclave on the coast of Africa which could easily be reached by ferry from Gibraltar without the need to check passports. From Ceuta they could slip effortlessly into Morocco and disappear. Tavares’ wife and family had been forced to flee back to England in a hurry before Ferraro’s men had tracked them down.

McNair was glad that Ferraro wouldn’t be bothering him again any time soon; he was looking at fifteen years at least and hopefully McNair would have cleaned up at the bookies which would enable him to move somewhere else in Spain. Maybe one of the islands or a place where not many tourists visited like Asturias where the owner of his local bar came from.

Ordering another beer, he watched the opening ceremony of the World Cup and smiled inside. It had been good so far, and with Ferraro out of the way that made it much better so he could settle down even at this ungodly hour (it was six a.m. in Spain due to the time difference) and enjoy four weeks of football and beer. Bar Asturias did a good full English breakfast which McNair had tried to convert them to change into a full Scottish by adding tattie scones, square sausage and haggis, but getting the ingredients locally was impossible.

As kick off approached, he noticed a few more ex-pats creeping into the bar sleepily and ordering breakfasts with coffee and the fresh local orange juice, rather than the gassy lager that was McNair’s tipple of choice for breakfast. He had piled on a few pounds since he quit football and this lifestyle wasn’t helping him to shed them. Still, when he got rich he might join a gym and sort his life out.

Brian had hired a number of large screen TVs to be installed in the restaurant so diners would be able to watch the games while enjoying their breakfast. It was an idea he had come up with once he realised most games were going to be played either in the early hours of the morning due to the time difference. By opening for breakfast they would see the place packed out with commuters and locals watching a game before getting to work and they would show re-runs of the early games in the evening for those who couldn’t make the game live.

They had decorated the restaurant with World Cup banners and flags of all the competing nations along with some photos of various World Cup heroes from the past like Pele, Moore, Beckenbauer and Maradona. On the basis that London was so multi-cultural, Brian reckoned they would have diners from every competing country at least, as well as numerous supporters of the teams that didn’t make it. With the huge number of Scottish people living in London, and those who knew that Brian was Bradley Gardner’s dad, he expected a huge turnout from the Tartan Army.

Lucy was still not that bothered about the whole event but pretended to be enthusiastic for Brian and the punters’ sakes. She had the job of trying to make sure the kitchen was keeping up with the orders and not being too distracted by the breakfast games which wasn’t easy. Still, on the whole it was a roaring success with bookings every day right through to the quarter-finals. A lot would depend on how far England and Scotland went in the competition. If either team was knocked out early then that would severely dent their profits and bookings. Who wanted to get up early and watch Senegal versus Austria?

Brian had convinced Lucy that whilst England weren’t expected to do much, Scotland were being widely tipped to go all the way to the final so that alone should keep the tills ringing for the entire tournament. She couldn’t argue with his logic, but it only took one freak result to end Scotland’s dreams and the turnover for the restaurant.

Barry and Sharon had flown to be with Jessie in Mijas a couple of days before the start of the tournament. Archie had arrived the day before along with Deepak who had the summer off and didn’t want to go home to India just yet. He was having a great time in Scotland and wanted to explore more of Europe, although spending a couple of weeks in Mijas watching football wasn’t going to scratch that itch. But it was nice to be invited to spend time with Bradley’s family and Archie who he liked immensely.

Deepak had enjoyed a great first season at Hearts. He had excelled in the Under 19s league and was on the bench for Hearts’ last couple of games of the season, coming on for his debut for the last fifteen minutes against Kilmarnock when they were already 3-0 up and had won the league. At the age of fifteen years and two hundred and fifty two days, he had played himself into the record books as the youngest ever player in the SPL.

He had never watched a World Cup back home in India, his grandad had a TV but the games were rarely shown so he and his friends would have to set up their own World Cup on the wasteland near his home and pretend they were there. Fascinated by the ceremony and vast crowds, he had lots of questions for Archie, including the one he had tried to work out with his grandad about the time difference. He still couldn’t get his head around the fact that it was dark as night in Spain but the sun was shining in Australia. After an hour of trying to explain it, Archie gave up and changed the subject.

The early kick offs were going to be a problem for them, especially if Scotland, England or Spain were going to be playing. Fortunately, the fixtures for Scotland were mostly evening kick offs in Australian time and seven a.m. in Spain, except for their opening game against Chile which kicked off at three a.m. Central European Time. They would have to make a party of it.

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