2016 - Lisbon
A squad of thirteen Old Harrovians assembled outside Burger King at Stansted Airport on Good Friday morning, most of them blissfully unaware that these would be some of the smartest surroundings they would enjoy before their return home in three days’ time.
Lisbon had been voted as the Easter Tour destination for 2016, beating off the challenge of Florence (too much scaffolding according to Alex Gilbert) and Bucharest (too cheap to suggest it would be any good according to most people). With Jack Orr-Ewing flying in from Paris to meet the team on arrival, the total group was a nice round fourteen, led, for the second year running, by Azhar Yakub Khan.
The group consisted almost entirely of OHAFC 2nd XI players, with only Alex Gilbert and David Lederman from the 1st XI and ‘floater’ Stof Magrath. Leadership was also prominent, with the current and two previous 2nd XI captains all touring: Geoff Taunton-Collins, Jack Orr-Ewing and Arjun Chopra. There were five tour virgins: Conti von Hirsch, Anthony Beresford, Rollo Hovey, Jack Alhadeff and goalkeeper Kyri Pittalis. Some rough early calculations showed that Lederman had been on more tours than the rest of the group put together.
The flight over to Lisbon was memorable for all the wrong reasons, with an army stag do also choosing this particular occasion to travel to the Portuguese capital. A series of ‘hilarious’ gags ensued, with one bloke walking backwards up and down the aisle and being shouted at whenever he failed to do so, several photos being taken with the Italian stewards, and the stag exposing himself as the plane landed and providing his own version of ‘flaps fully open.’ Theo Gordon was most to suffer during the two hours, as from the outset he was placed next to a grown man wearing a nappy and little else. Everyone made a mental note to avoid this group at all times during the weekend, a plan which lasted less than 24 hours.
Jack Orr-Ewing met the group on arrival and two buses transported the squad the short journey to the Royal Prince hostel half an hour away. With no prior knowledge of the bed layout, a dorm draw, something that Lederman has performed in true Champions League style the previous two trips, was avoided. It transpired that two dorms of seven would house the team and an early rush to procure a bunk in dorm one took place. This proved a massive error from the more experienced members, who wandered down the corridor to find that dorm 2 was in fact twice the size and far more comfortable. With Gordon and Lederman the heaviest snorers in the squad, and both of them selecting bunks in the centre of dorm 1, it was clearly the Group of Death for Gilbert, Magrath, Chopra, Orr-Ewing and von Hirsch.
A friendly girl named Telma introduced herself to the team. Von Hirsch immediately asked her where Louise was, but this gag fell short of the mark, Telma responding with ‘Yes, everyone asks me that.’ Several confusing exchanges followed, during which time it became apparent that Telma would in fact be following the group around all weekend in some sort of tour guide role – a most unexpected turn of events and a first for an OHAFC tour.
There was little time to ponder the situation however as the buses waited outside to take the group to their first game of the weekend. A short trip through the centre of town and out into the suburbs led the group to the impressive stadium of AC Tojal. The opposition matched their surroundings unfortunately and a totally one-sided game ensued, the hosts running out 10-0 winners and but for Man of the Match Kyri Pittalis in goal it could have been more. (Match report from the game is available in the Results section)
A quick beer and some mystery meat followed in the bar housed under the main stand before it was back onto the buses to return to the hostel and prepare for the first night in Lisbon. Azhar urged the group to be quick, with a table booked at a local restaurant and the kitchen due to close shortly. Telma was then to lead the team on a pub crawl. First however, she wanted to familiarise herself a bit more closely with the team and decided to stand in the communal shower area while everyone got ready to go out. This proved awkward, with many of the team totally confused that a member of the opposite sex actually wanted to spend time with them. Chopra finally took the plunge and asked her if she watched men shower on a regular basis. ‘Oh yes, I do it with all the groups that stay here’ came the reply.
Retaurant Rio Grande appeared to be an excellent choice with plenty of locals enjoying their meals as the team arrived. Telma joined the group and began chatting to Conti von Hirsch about her love of music and photography. Odds on Conti winning her heart narrowed – he was slotted in as second favourite behind perennial sharker Jack Orr-Ewing. After several beers, conversation began to run dry and several members resorted to the lowest of the low: placing bits of paper and chips on people’s heads and shoulders without them knowing. Tour leader Khan was a particular victim on this occasion, as he chatted away to everyone for a good twenty minutes with a plastic bottle top perched on his head.
Worse was to follow however. At the end of the meal everyone downed some local sweet wine and the five tour virgins were then invited up to express their gratitude to Azhar, perform an impression and down an extra shot of something fairly abhorrent. On the whole the impressions were awful, but Conti’s Louis van Gaal was truly a work of art and had everyone purring in appreciation – it was almost as if the clueless Dutch weirdo was in the room himself. As this was going on, Theo Gordon quietly slipped a large piece of local cheese into Azhar’s pocket and it stayed there until Az reached inside to find his wallet to pay the bill.
Onwards to the bars then and barely had the team got out of their cabs than the familiar green polo shirts of the army stag do hoved into view. It quickly became apparent that Telma had led the group to the equivalent of Lisbon’s Leicester Square with a number of tour groups all converging, including, comically, a group of Indians whose stag was dressed as an angel and looked like he would rather be stuck in an IT office in Slough with a stray rat for company than do what he was doing at that particular moment.
After some aborted attempts to enter a bar without any army personnel inside, the majority of the group settled on a small, dingy bar further up the road. The music was slightly too loud but the drinks were good and everyone could sit down. Prices of alcohol were clearly tailored to the market the bars attracted, with a litre of beer costing just €2.50. Von Hirsch continued his charge for Telma’s heart, staying outside to chat more about post-modernist art and the thrash metal scene in Lisbon. Orr-Ewing glanced outside regularly, nervously wondering if his early friendliness in the bus was all going to waste.
The final destination for the night was a waterside club called Urban Beach. Confusion reigned as there were two entrances. Orr-Ewing led a splinter group in one side, the rest queued up on the other. The two groups were finally joined when a large dividing wall was removed to the separate areas into one large room.
On return to the hostel, most went to bed, but Gilbert, Magrath and Gordon weren’t finished and, much to the disappointment of everyone else in the building, discovered a full size pool table in the kitchen downstairs. Three hours later, with the time 8.30am, the trio were still practising their long pots as the first guests arrived for breakfast, which included a rather odd roll filled with an egg still in its shell.
After much cajoling from tour leader Khan and some further inspection of the group in the showers by Telma, it was into the buses for an 11.30am departure for a sightseeing tour. Gilbert and Magrath begged to be left to stay in bed, the folly of their hours spent toiling over the green baize now coming home to hit them. Khan was having none of it, but at least acceded to a stop off at a McDonalds for breakfast. Half an hour later and the group arrived at the smartest, roundest McDonald’s anyone had ever seen, a true work of art that resembled a rock star’s villa in Miami rather than a fast food joint in Portugal.
The weather was mixed as the group set off for a tour of the sights, with some rocks, a lighthouse and a bakery chief among them. Tour guide Pedro was on top form and after the dutiful questions regarding the local landscape had been dispensed with it was down to the serious stuff: should Arsene Wenger remain as Arsenal manager. Pedro was adamant he should not, stating that if he had been in charge of Benfica he would have been sacked many years ago, a view that Gooners Orr-Ewing and von Hirsch struggled to see eye to eye with. Meanwhile Pedro’s wife Maria drove bus two and had to put up with Theo Gordon releasing the tension from his bowels on a regular basis. ‘I need to buy some corks so you can fill your holes’ was her practical solution to a now-stinking bus.
After some much needed sleep en route, the group arrived in Mafra, another sleepy village outside Lisbon for game number two. This time the OHAFC would be facing a group of veterans, so despite struggling for numbers with at least five of the tour party claiming injuries of varying seriousness, there was genuine hope that a second consecutive pasting would be avoided. There was still time for some man-viewing in the changing room as Telma got her now-standard five minutes of gawking in followed by Maria being given an eyeful by Lederman, who, thinking the coast was clear stripped off only to find the tour guide’s wife standing five yards away. She pretended to be appalled but lingered a while longer before joining Telma outside.
The game, played in pouring rain with a large puddle sitting in the middle of the pitch, turned out to be a minor classic with the brave ten men of Harrrow coming back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 in the closing minutes. Azhar nearly won it for the visitors with a stunning strike in injury time but his effort cannoned off the post, onto the ‘keeper and out to safety. A full match report is available in the Results section.
After a couple of beers in the bar, the group drove the short distance to Mafra’s highly impressive futsal complex that included a bar, trophy room, futsal stadium and restaurant and it was here that the team spent the next few hours being royally entertained by their hosts. A full banquet was served with many local dishes. Everything was going swimmingly until a plate of cow’s hooves arrived. Azhar, who had failed to finish his bowl of soup (mainly because Lederman kept re-filling it every time he left the table) was then presented with a large spoonful of cow hoof fat and, under the gaze of several opposition, questioned as to why he didn’t like the food. It was a toss-up as to who was suffering the most between him and Theo Gordon – Theo had explained to his opposite man that he spoke no Portuguese but was in fact fluent in Spanish. This was a lie. Unfortunately for Theo his opposite man was also fluent in Spanish and proceeded to spend the next hour talking to Theo in a language he couldn’t understand. ‘Si, siiiii’ said Theo, nodding his head appreciatively, the best he could manage as his new friend spoke at length about the state of the Portuguese economy and fishing rights in the north Atlantic. But an even worse time was had by Arjun Chopra, who was asked what nationality he was by the rather swarthy-looking referee. ‘English’ replied Chops. ‘No, no’ said the ref, pointing to his Indian skin and displaying some mild latent racism.
At the end of the meal, with Azhar having not eaten his soup, his cow hoof or his chocolate mousse, a brave speech in faltering English was made by the Mafra President, to great cheers from everyone. Several gifts were presented to the Harrovians, including a shirt, a scarf, some hand-painted tiles and a small model windmill. It felt like an episode of the Generation Game. In response, Azhar thanked the hosts and offered them Jack Orr-Ewing’s sweaty polo shirt that he’d worn most of the trip.
The locals were clearly taken with the OHAFC. A rather drunk bloke staggered over and growled ‘You are good people…many Engleesh come here but are no good, but you are not like theese…you are the best!’
It later transpired he was a local police detective.
Promises were made for a return match in May 2017 and it is hoped that the Shepherd Churchill can raise their standards sufficiently to provide some fatty cow hooves for the guests to make them feel at home.
Back at the hostel and another quick turnaround before the group headed to one of Telma’s favourite bars in Lisbon, a small, intimate venue where some of her photography was displayed on the walls. ‘I don’t think it’s that good’ Chopra stated rather bluntly within earshot of our Portguese companion, a view he later watered down to ‘it’s not really my style’ when speaking to her directly.
Gilbert, Magrath and Gordon had had enough and decided a glass of red and some pizza was sufficient for them and they headed back to the hostel for an early night. The rest drank on, before heading to Main, a commercial club in the centre of town where inside some very pretty girls stood, knowing full well there was zero chance they would be bothered by any Harrovians. Jack Alhadeff, who had earlier let on about his Harry Potter fetish, then enhanced his weird list credentials with some very odd dancing. Back home to the hostel at half five for the survivors and the prospect of a lie-in.
Sunday was a sad day, with five of the fourteen deciding that the 6.30am flight back on the Monday morning was not for them and arranging flights home on the Sunday evening instead. After a bit of sleep, the group walked into town to the rather smart Timeout market, a large waterside warehouse containing numerous food and drink vendors. It was exactly what the doctor ordered following the previous two days’ meals that consisted almost entirely of cows' hooves and chicken McNuggets.
‘I’m going to spend the rest of the day here’ offered Gordon and no-one doubted him. After filling up on Sushi, Thai food and burgers, Chopra, Lederman and Orr-Ewing said their goodbyes and caught a taxi to the airport. Alhadeff and Pittalis followed soon afterwards, leaving a hardcore group of nine Harrovians in Lisbon for the third night.
As afternoon turned to evening, the tourists made their way into the searing 16 degree heat of the outside seating area and settled down to their first beers of the day. On Magrath and Gilbert’s table conversation soon turned to the local birdlife, with Magrath bewildering onlookers with his best pigeon impression by bobbing his head up and down with his arms behind his back while attempting to pick things up with his ‘beak’. Gilbert then began talking to an unfortunate bird that had made the mistake of wandering over into the vicinity of his chair. The creature was so shocked by the unexpected attention that it flew off straight into the nearest lamppost.
In a touching moment, as the group was settling the bill Theo Gordon presented Azhar with a beautiful bouquet of flowers as a recompense for his wretched behaviour throughout the weekend. He then rather spoiled the gesture by launching a tirade of abuse at the now rather effeminate looking tour captain who was lovingly clutching his fresh daffodils. Deciding that their work at the market was done the group set off for Lisbon’s best loved rooftop bar.
The surprisingly grotty car park lift that provided access to the bar brought out the schoolboy bully in all nine remaining tourists with the group walloping anyone who was careless enough to stand in the centre of the lift, stopping only when the doors opened to reveal startled locals waiting on other floors. The worrying sight of nine grinning, sweaty Old Harrovians stuffed into a struggling lift ensured that the tourists made their journey up to the top floor without any additional passengers.
On arrival, Beresford immediately set about securing a seat in the packed venue and focussed his efforts on a young American lady who, to everyone’s great surprise, yielded her seat and even gave a smug-looking Beresford her number. The rest of the group huddled into the small, picturesque beer garden. Quickly tiring of the charming bohemian atmosphere, a game was concocted involving lighters and pint glasses which had the desired effect of ‘livening things up’ as beer and lighters began flying all over the garden and into nearby potted plants.
A visit to the Praça do Comércio – Lisbon’s beautiful main square – followed. Gordon tucked into his 7th, 8th and 9th meals of the day in a pleasant pizzeria while the injured trio of von Hirsch, Beresford, and Taunton-Collins jealously looked on at an enormous dog that was doing laps of the great square at astonishing speed.
After a brief pit-stop at the Royal Prince the group descended on a local restaurant. In tour tradition, fines were then handed out to those present for various misdemeanours committed during the weekend, Arjun Chopra the man charged with noting down the crimes:
Tour leader Khan had booked himself an extra legroom seat on the flight over without telling anyone, he also had spectacularly failed to arrange lunch on landing in Lisbon - something the group did not appreciate. Conti von Hirsch went shopping for some casual socks at Stansted, Theo Gordon pretended to speak Portuguese all weekend by adding -sssh to the end of normal English words, Geoff Taunton-Collins set himself phone reminders to stretch, Kyri Pittalis talked in his sleep and had an app to record what he said, while Stof Magrath wondered aloud at the possibility of Telma joining in a game of bukkake in dorm two...
Rollo Hovey declared the person he would most like to invite to dinner was Freddie Mercury, before Lederman pointed out to him that he was dead, Beresford had one too many and opened up to the rest of his minibus about his life's troubles and Jack Alhadeff shot to the top of the weird list by spending most of his weekend sitting on toilets on planes, in nightclubs and talking about his love of Harry Potter. Lederman, Chopra and Orr-Ewing were all fined for leaving early, but fortunately, having left early they weren't around to down their fines. Meanwhile Robinson was fined for failing to commit any fineable offences.
Taunton-Collins then took over tour guide duties in Telma’s absence, presumably because he was now wearing a fetching pink hat and was therefore the most visible and he set off into the night in search of further amusement. He proved equally unsuccessful as Telma had at sourcing a good venue however, as he was immediately persuaded to enter the very first bar he came across: ’16 shots for €6 actually seems like quite a good deal’ he insisted.
Drinks flowed and before the group knew it a decision had to be made: carry straight through until it was time to leave for the airport or cadge a couple of hours of sleep back at the hostel. The prospect of even just two hours of sleep proved too tempting and so back they headed one last time to the Royal Prince and the dormitories, which by now smelt of a cross between stale camembert and Theo Gordon's dirty clothes bag (within which, ironically, lay a piece of stale camembert).
Unsurprisingly, the journey home was a struggle for all, with Gilbert mumbling incoherent gibberish throughout and von Hirsch managing to get lost for fifteen minutes in the 20 meter walk between check-in and security.
But the group arrived safe and sound at Stansted and, following one last Burger King, shuffled off home to the nearest bed they could find.
Excellent work from all concerned and especially tour leader Khan. If we learnt three things from Lisbon it was the following: Theo Gordon cannot speak Portuguese, Azhar Khan doesn't like cow's hooves and 6am flights home are not a good idea...
- tour captain
- Azhar Khan Geoff Taunton-Collins
- David Lederman Arjun Chopra
- Alex Gilbert Jack Orr-Ewing
- Jack Robinson Stof Magrath
- Theo Gordon Kyri Pittalis
- Anthony Beresford Conti von Hirsch
- Jack Alhadeff Rollo Hovey