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Home Sittingbourne News Article
With just days until the World Cup gets under way, super fans from across Kent are descending on Brazil for the four-yearly festival of football.
Among them is Sittingbourne father-of-one Terry Matson, who is due to arrive in South America with three friends today for this year's tournament.
The 53-year-old self-employed bricklayer - who has travelled to six World Cups - is among England's red and white army preparing to cheer on Roy Hodgson's side.
Their arrival comes after a weekend of soaring temperatures helped the county get into a samba spirit as the World Cup looms onto a sunny horizon.
Pubs also got a pre-World Cup boost with beer sales rocketing - and things are looking up for the licencing trade, with landlords able to open until 1am for later England games.
But staying at home to support England is not enough for some fans.
Terry - a familiar face at Sheppey building sites - said: "People always ask, 'how can you afford to go to so many World Cups?'
"But if you put away £25 a week, over the course of a year that amounts to £1,000, and over four years, that's your World Cup paid for."
Reports emanating from Brazil suggest the beautiful game's "spiritual home" will be a hotbed of unrest as well as football.
In the build-up to the finals, protesters staged riots across cities over the financial effect staging the tournament is having on the country's poorer communities.
It has led to fears violence will flare again once the competition starts, but Terry has heard it all before.
He said: "We had six months of documentaries about how bad things were going to be in South Africa four years ago.
"Even my missus said, 'why are you going?' But we had a brilliant time – absolutely fantastic.
"We took internal flights, hire cars and travelled 500 miles across Africa."
Terry's World Cup travels with England began with a package trip to Spain for the 1982 finals.
"After that," he said, "you learn to do your own thing," leading to independently arranged sorties to tournaments in Mexico (1986), Italy (1990), Japan and South Korea (2002), Germany (2006) and South Africa (2010).
The national team failed to qualify for the 1994 edition in the USA, and the 1998 tournament in France is the only World Cup involving England he has missed for 32 years.
"I had the tickets all booked up, but had a back injury," he said. "Your mates are out there, phoning you, telling you they're going here and there, and you're stuck at home. It was terrible."
There was no missing the next finals held in Japan and South Korea, which offered Terry and his friends their most unique supporter experience to date.
He said: "When we got to Japan it was, 'wow, this is different'. The people were so polite, helpful and honourable.
"The cities were cleaner than home and everything was so precise; the trains ran to the second. They must have had a printing press or something inside the stadium because within 10 minutes of coming out, you were given an A5-size piece of paper with a report on the game."
Being self-employed and working at building sites across Sittingbourne and Sheppey means Terry never struggles for time off to follow England.
He said he has noted more women and children following the team abroad these days, making it "better" than the hooligan-infected tours of the 1980s.
Terry said World Cup fever does not take hold until he "touches down" in the host country.
He said: "Once you're in that airport and all the other countries are coming in, singing and all dressed up, that's when it hits you."
He has tickets for all England's matches for the coming tournament, including the final - should the team progress.
He is not hopeful we will end 48 years of hurt, but that is OK - because "supporting England is all about being there".
"You know usually it's all going to go wrong," Terry said. "But just because they're not very good, you still support them – they're your country."
He added: "I've still got a voucher from Italia 90 when we reached the semis, it says 'this voucher entitles you to a World Cup Final ticket'. It's never been used."
What will you be doing to celebrate the World Cup? Let us know below.
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