British Fans' Favorite Trying to Beat the Odds

LONDON - The Tube and the streets of the West End were awash in yellow and green on Sunday as the minutes ticked away toward the kickoff of the World Cup final between Brazil and Germany almost half a world away.

Ori Lewis
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Ori Lewis

LONDON - The Tube and the streets of the West End were awash in yellow and green on Sunday as the minutes ticked away toward the kickoff of the World Cup final between Brazil and Germany almost half a world away.

While the locals and the other thousands upon thousands had their attention focused on any manner of things during the weekend, the large group of Brazil supporters in the metropolis converged on Trafalgar Square to watch their team in anticipation of what they did not manage to do four years earlier, when the World Cup final was held so much closer in Paris.

Being one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, nobody here batted an eyelid at the Brazilian fans' state of preparedness or joy once the "holy grail" had been recaptured for a record fifth time.

In this massive metropolis where anonymity is so easily gained, the Brazilian fans, and possibly the Germans, who appeared to be keeping a very low profile to this observer, at least, could go and celebrate, have a few drinks, dance a few dances and then get back to their routine. On the sidelines there would perhaps be a reserved show of appreciation, admiration, perhaps even a slight bit of envy from the mass of onlookers who by now had become completely neutral in their approach to the event which only a week earlier had seen almost an entire nation of some 60 million people grind to a halt as England tried in vain to stop the talented Brazilian express train in its tracks (yes, reports said that the Scots and the Welsh also took more than a passing interest in the outcome of that quarterfinal match).

But now, with the Union and St. George flags having been put back into storage until the next big soccer event in two years time, there may have been little to cheer in terms of an emotional outpouring of national pride, although hopes are high for Tim Henman to become the first British player to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.

Perry's distinctive voice as a radio pundit has now gone. He died in 1995, but his memory remains a permanent fixture at the All England Club mostly because of his statue which stands at a strategic junction near Centre Court.

The British fixation with Perry has highlighted the dearth of local talent and the greatness of the tournament which, despite its now almost anomalous surface in the international game (grass), still attracts the best players in the world who come to win the most prestigious prize in tennis.

While Perry may have a statue in his honor, Henman, who has come closer to winning the title than any other Briton over the past 70 years, now has a whole corner of the Wimbledon complex named after him.

"Henman Hill," as it has been dubbed, is a sloping patch of grass just outside the new No. 1 court which faces a giant TV screen, and those fans not fortunate enough to have a ticket to see the match in the flesh can watch and cheer - or commiserate - in unison.

Just like the Brazilian fans, who celebrated a great victory for their nation, so the Brits have taken on their next sporting project... to support Henman all the way. The Brazilian fans' cheering in Lon-

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