Are you aware that England won the World Cup in Soccerball in 1966? If you were ignorant of this fact, all you need to do is to carefully read any English newspaper any day of the week. Because they have mentioned it every, single day since. And that is part of the reason why no one in the rest of the World would be happy if they ever won it again.
Actually, though, and even though I have heard from survivors that it was particularly painful at the time, themuns next door winning the Soccer World Cup has done the rest of us an immense favour for which we should be eternally (or even longer) grateful. The article from which the picture above is stolen explains why a bit, and is well worth the read, but I can provide an executive summary here for those sportingly-challenged readers who would rather run a nine-minute mile than read anything about sport: winning the thing once so frucked up everyone connected with English soccer that they will never, ever win it again. And that truth, as a thing of beauty, is obviously a joy forever.
But what a picture! Not just the tight shorts, ladies, although, stylistically I prefer those myself to the tents soccerball players now wear that cover them from the waist to somewhere below the knee. I’m not gay or anything; it’s just that I grew up with that style and hanker after it. But, as I am wont to say in my wittier moods, “Do you know what’s not as good as it used to be?” (Pause while my interlocutor ponders my question, and then – and timing, in comedy as in doing sex, is everything – I launch the punchline.) “Nostalgia.” To my mind, and that is the only mind I have to hand at the moment, that is as good a two-liner as this belter from Kevin McAleer, who, also, is a thing of beauty and, as such, a joy forever. (Please excuse the leprechaun at the start and the end of that clip; I couldn’t figure out how to erase it.) His guru show contained the following advice, which just gets funnier the more you think about it: “Don’t judge other people: they’re not worth it.”
But back to the pic. (Oh, it’s his day off; I opened this bracket to reply to his sarcastic comment which never came.) Apart from the delight of one Englishman lying down and another one on his knees before an Argentinian, apart altogether from the bursting physicality and balance of Maradingdong himself, what tickles me about the picture is the expression on some of the faces. Enjoy, for a moment, the anguish on poor, wee Stuart Pearce’s face as he finishes off a tackle on a player who is no longer in the place he thought he was going to be when he started the tackle. Marvel at Terry Butcher’s stoicism as he flings a despairing leg out knowing full well that it is a least half a beagle’s gowl away from the actual ball he is attempting to win back from Maradona. But study for a while longer the expression on the other English footballer, the number 18, the only one of the three still on his feet. To me, it conveys complete bewilderment at what is going on, expresses his utter lack of knowledge that soccer could actually be played this way, with maybe a hint of realisation that he should not actually be on the same pitch as gifted players like Diego.
The other aspect of the photo I like is the other Argentinian player in shot. He looks like he is out for an afternoon stroll down the paseo. And he may as well have been, because Diego did not require any assistance whatsoever from his ten teammates to score that goal. Like all the other spectators in the stadium, that Argentinian player is just enjoying what he has seen in the previous 14.3 seconds, and is looking forward to the punchline when his captain scores the goal that scuppers England’s chances for another four years. I suspect there is a hint of a smile on his face. (Please also note that only the two Argentinian players are actually looking at the ball. Bit of a hint there about the problems affecting English soccer, but I do not want to help them too much, so keep that nugget to yourselves. And encased in brackets.)
I’ll have to give up that penchant of mine of calling Association Football soccer. I used to do it because when I said “football” I meant Gaelic Football, and so I used “soccer” to distinguish the two. It was also a subtle attack on the British Empire and a linguistic expression of my repressed Republicanism.
“What did you do during the War, Daddy?”
“Well, apart from applying Down Southy speed limits at a time when it was neither profitable not popular (nor legal), whenever anyone in my earshot used the word ‘football’, I would interject and ask whether they actually meant ‘soccer’, dear.”
But now that Gaelic Football has morphed into Gaelic Backwards Handball, I may as well let the Brits have their little victory, as the players of the foreign game at least do actually use their feet to play it the odd time. As for American Football … I will leave them to their own linguistic madness. Sure they call the intrinsically Irish sport of rounders baseball, for some unknown reason, and they don’t know their fanny from their pants.
Andytown shower (not full), dressing gown until après déjeuner, I feel, and then full evening wear (plus welly boots) for my evening stroll around the grounds and down to the lough, waving magnanimously to the rough menials (tenants) I pass on my ballade. What about youse? Still on lockdown? Or semi-released? Be careful out there. as another Phil used to warn.
Now wash your mind.