Thursday, 10 June 2010

Three Lions On A Shirt

Last week, in Canada, I had a chat with our American coach driver, a very nice chap called Larry from Seattle. The conversation went something like this:

PM: So, Larry, are you looking forward to June 12th?

Larry: Why? What’s happening on June 12th?

PM: It’s the big game.

Larry: What big game?

PM: Larry, the World Cup starts on June 11th.

Larry: Oh, you mean the soccer World Cup?

PM: Yes.

Larry: So what’s happening on June 12th?

PM: The big game.

Larry: Oh – Are England playing?

PM: Yes … against …?

Larry: Who?

PM: Against the USA!!!

Larry: Oh! I didn’t know America had qualified.

PM: WHAT?????

Larry simply didn’t know that the USA had qualified for World Cup and that they had been drawn in the same group as England. And he wasn’t a special case by any means. The majority of Americans are simply not interested in “soccer” and have little or no idea that their nation are competing in the world’s greatest sporting event. Most Americans are preoccupied with baseball, American football and basketball.

The conversation continued:

PM: So will you be watching the game?

Larry: No.

I was amazed. Larry understood the basic rules of football (or “soccer” as Americans call it) but had no interest in the sport whatsoever. He went on to explain that although many Americans play “soccer”, the other three major sports are simply too popular.

He had heard of David Beckham though.

Unlike America, England and most other countries are in the throes of ecstasy counting down the seconds until the big kick off on June 11th.

In England, the cross of St George is being attached to cars; pubs across the country are being decorated with huge flags and signs urging punters to watch every single game on large high definition screens while supping vast quantities of ale; work places are preparing for mass exoduses every day so that fans can get home or to the pub to watch as many games as possible.

Mrs PM has resigned herself to becoming a football widow for the next four weeks as I prepare to watch as many games as possible, altering my schedules to accommodate the games.

Some weeks ago, Mrs PM arranged something for June 12th, unaware that this was the day of England’s first game. Her plan was for us to visit friends in Congleton so that we could go for a meal in the town centre and perhaps enjoy one or two beers in a pub. The conversation went something like this:

Mrs PM: We’re going to Congleton on June 12th. It will be nice to see M and S and go for a meal and a few drinks.

PM: June 12th? The World Cup starts on June 11th. You can’t make any plans during the World Cup.

Mrs PM: But it’s the only date that the four of us can make.

PM: Let me look at the fixture list.

Several seconds pass

PM: NO WAY!!!! England are playing the USA. Absolutely no way!! I want to be watching the game with beer and not in some restaurant having a meal. Have you checked with M? He will want to watch the game too.

Mrs PM: He’s a rugby fan.

PM: He is also a football fan.

Mrs PM: I’ll call S.

PM: I’ll bet S hasn’t checked with M. He will feel the same.

Two minutes later …

Mrs PM: OK – the plan is for us to go to Congleton and watch the England game at their house.

PM: Have they got a big telly?

Mrs PM: Yes

PM: And will there be beer?

Mrs PM: Yes.

PM: And can we drive there in between games?

Mrs PM: Yes.

PM: Good – we’ll go.

Mrs PM: I HATE football!!!!!

Similar situations will occur all over England. Unfortunately, however, in Scotland it will be somewhat different.

Scotland have failed to qualify for the World Cup and, rather than supporting their more successful and more illustrious neighbours, they will be supporting A.B.E. i.e. Anybody But England.

There is a fierce rivalry between England and Scotland in terms of football that is a little difficult to explain. When I say “rivalry”, what I really mean is a “jealous hatred of England by bitter Scottish fans”.

Why do most Scots hate England? Well I guess “Braveheart” might have had something to do with it, with our rather nasty historic rivalry but I think the real reason is much simpler to explain.

England have won the World Cup and Scotland haven’t.

And the Scots are as jealous as hell.

Until recently, I had a little bit of a soft spot for Scotland. As a child I remember watching Scotland’s exploits in the World Cup and I actually supported their efforts. Scotland, as I saw it, were part of the United Kingdom and therefore worthy of my support behind England.

Sadly, most Scottish fans do not think this way and absolutely detest England, choosing to support whoever England are playing. You can guarantee that on Saturday June 12th, 90% of Scots will become Americans for the day, making up for the fact that 90% of Americans will not be interested. Then on June 18th, the Scots will become honorary Algerians when Algeria play England – and so on.

It’s sad really. I have tried to understand it by talking to a wee Scottish friend of mine who, like his compatriots, thinks this way. I call him Hawkeye (from “Hawkeye the Noo”), the reason being that he calls me Dilbert.

Hawkeye hates England so much that he has actually turned me against Scotland. As I said earlier, I used to cheer the Scots (unless they were playing England) but Hawkeye has simply turned me against his country. And believe me, he never misses a chance to throw salt in the wounds.

Here’s an example:

During the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, England were playing Brazil in the quarter finals. England took the lead through Michael Owen. I was tempted to send a text message to Hawkeye, asking him what he thought of the goal – but I thought better of it. I foolishly believed that my wee Scottish chum would secretly be wanting England to progress to the semi finals.

Sadly I was wrong – so very wrong.

Brazil equalised and then scored a bizarre winner as Ronaldinho took a chance and scored directly from a free kick. The final whistle went with Brazil winning 2-1, dumping England out of the cup. Within two seconds of the referee removing the whistle from his mouth, my mobile phone chirped and I read a text message from my Scottish friend that simply said something along the lines of:



I was gutted and I almost – almost – texted back with a message full of anger and expletives.

I think that was the turning point when I decided that I would no longer support Scotland in any way, shape or form. Scotland deserved nothing but contempt and I would now support A.B.S. - Anybody But Scotland.

In the intervening eight years, I have mellowed somewhat and secretly wish the Scottish football team well despite the hatred and vitriol that comes from this bitter wee Scot (although I will never tell him that).

I aim to get my revenge hopefully, because if England do win the World Cup I will never, ever, ever, ever let him forget it. I will sing to him constantly:

It’s Coming Home, It’s Coming Home, It’s Coming – Football’s Coming Home.

Getting back to June 12th, for the benefit of any Americans who have stumbled on this post, I implore you to take an interest in the game on June 12th and to support your country against the mighty England. I think that now is the time to embrace football and make the following name changes:

(1) Rename “Soccer” to “Football”
(2) Rename “American Football” to “Padded Rugby” (because that is effectively what it is).

By all means, watch baseball etc. but find time in your schedule to watch football too. It’s a fantastic game worthy of your interests.

To any Scots reading this post, please try to put the bitterness behind you. England are worthy of your support – just because your football team wins nothing it doesn’t mean that your destructive jealousy should get the better of you. By supporting England, at least you might have some moments of pleasure.

And finally, to the other nations in the World Cup, I extend my best wishes (unless you are Germany, Portugal or Argentina – and you know why). I even want Australia to beat the Germans on June 13th (though I hope that England beat Australia later in the unlikely event that Australia can qualify).

I’ll leave you with a couple of England anthems, which I dedicate to my wee Scottish friend, Hawkeye, and I really hope that his good lady wife, a true football supporting English woman, will carry out her threat to paint the flag of St George on his roof, and hang England bunting in every single room of his house.

Come on England!!!!!!!

We’re gonna score one more than you!!


Pandora Behr said...

Oh my you're bringing back memories of 1998 and Gareth Southgate etc etc etc.

Australia's first match is with Germany. We're doomed.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pandora,

I pray with every ounce of my being that Australia beat Germany.




River said...

What's this? You want me to watch soccer? A SPORT????

'scuse me, I'll be in the kitchen with Mrs PM, doing, oh, anything else...

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

Sport is brilliant - especially football.

At least if Mrs PM prefers to be in the kitchen, then I don't have to do any cooking - double bonus!!!!




HermanTurnip said...

Swinging by just to give you a "thumbs up" for the Rik Mayall clip. The Young Ones has always been my favorite comedy show. Seeing Rik again brought back some fond memories.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Herman,

I was at university when the Young Ones was on, which was particularly well timed. I've seen Rik Mayall live three times - once on his own and twice with "Bottom".

Superb stuff.