Friday, June 23, 2006

 

I used to be a Linesman

I’m obliged to balance my life around football this month – as if the last eight months had never happened. The endlessly televised sweep of a team of over-paid egoists regularly proving to the world that the best thing to do with your head is to beat a ball with it. It certainly beats learning something, even if it’s as ephemeral as the weather program on Channel 87. My associate on the paper is from Valencia, so we have had to close early over the winter and spring on the nights that his team was playing. Or carry on working I suppose at a kind of half-speed. In fact, close early and have a whisky with the Russian girls over the road. It has its positive side.
On football night, the whole town would be quiet, apart from the bellow of a million television screens and the occasional shriek from the viewers along the lines of ‘shoot the ref’ or ‘kill the tropical gentleman playing wing for the other team’. This being a loose translation, but one that, I hope, manages to maintain the sentiment.
Eventually, two things would be bound to happen. The first would be a dozen heavy explosions as Pedro, the town pyrotechnican, blasted skywards a few rockets substantial enough to have given Werner von Braun a flutter of pleasure, regardless of who won as long as somebody did (Werner’s sentiments exactly), and, secondly, the final whistle would invariably presage a great outpouring of voluble football fans into the streets, bars and knock-shops of the community.
But, with Barcelona apparently winning every cup ever cast, plated or pressed, with ‘their foreign team-maters’ beating ‘our foreign team mates’ (assuming you’re a Real Madrid, Valencia or Seville supporter), I had kind of assumed that the whole season was finally washed up for another year. Actually, another three months, but, even that’s a start.
It’s our own fault, of course. The game was invented by the English – apparently as an economical way of keeping warm. It was later introduced by the Scots (who had previously been prospecting in the hills and run out of porridge) into a small mining town in Murcia in the later part of the nineteenth century. In fact, the oldest footie pitch is still there. In Aguilas!
Spain’s most famous commentator is English. He’s called Michael Robinson and he used to play for Osasuna (who did rather well this year). If you know him and David Beckham (who he? – Ed) then you can usually get a drink or two out of it. Of course, if you know Ronaldihno, you might get a full dinner…
Now, to my recent surprise, the world cup has started. Trinidad and Tobago against Finland. Most unfair, Finland should have teamed up with Sweden and given them a good thrashing.
Catalonia wanted to field its own team – after all, in the Reino Unido we have Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, England and the Scilly Isles all fighting their corner, so why shouldn’t the really-jolly-nearly independent republic of Catalunia have its own chaps? Spain (or if you prefer – the lumpenspain) is in fact quite in favour of the idea, considering that any Catalonian player found in the Spanish team would probably score an own-goal just out of spite.When another country’s team plays, even if we couldn’t find it on a map, we roar with pleasure or rage. Pathetic. Personally, if Ethiopia beats Cyprus or not, I can truly claim not to care – as long as the office doesn’t close early again.

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