I’m out of my depth here. As someone who took the executive decision aged 14 to follow her brother rather than Mark Owen and give up Man Utd to start supporting Charlton Athletic (as I can recall, PURELY to be controversial in a town full of Ipswich supporters and manufacture some kind of peculiar rivalry), I’m really not qualified to go into any real detail on the match in which I have participated. Though I did rip off a few choice phrases from Alan Hansen’s Match of the Day punditry, in my youth, and I still wheel them out from time to time. “Sloppy defence”, “no precision in the passing”, erm “RUN, RUN YOU B*STARD, RUN!”. The latter is more of an ad lib – watching England play makes me angry.
But watching England play makes everyone English angry, I think. We seem to be falling out of love with football, which is a bit of a shame given that if I have to listen to my male friends banging on about a particular sport I really would by far prefer to hear about football than cricket – you know who you are.
I was recently explaining the various trials and tribulations of the England team to important OCJOG lady, Ruth, and realised that it sounded like I was describing a Hollyoaks plot rather than our actual national team. I kind of think a lot of the rhetoric around the England team and footballers generally speaking is a bit lazy. Yes, a lot of them do appear to be thoroughly unpleasant, but then they do have a lot of money and rather a lot less sense. Is that an excuse for being a racist? No. Then again, I don’t know if John Terry is a racist. Ashley Cole says not, but can you trust the judgement of a man who wears those pants let alone a man with such a chequered history with people accused of hate crimes?
Is having a lot of money a good enough excuse for causing the distress and embarrassment of an entire nation with alarming regularity? What if it’s not because they get paid an obscene amount of money – what if maybe, just maybe, they’re just a bit shit at football?
Despite disparaging remarks about women’s football by FIFA President and potato-faced menace, Sepp Blatter, who believes that women players should wear “tighter shorts”, the good news for my Sasha Fierce drum banging is that its popularity seems to be on the rise. The BBC even show the Women’s FA Cup final these days, though I do wonder if anyone’s watching. It seems to me that our women’s team might be quite a bit more likeable than the men’s side (even if they are ranked by FIFA as 8th, whilst the men’s team is INEXPLICABLY ranked 5th best in the world – my crushing disappointment begs to differ, stattos), so maybe we should try giving them a chance if we want to continue our national love affair with the “beautiful” game.
In my “Note about the Author” I omitted the information that a I once captained a cup-winning ladies football team. This is because we competed twice at our employer’s sports day, coming second once (in a competition of three teams) and winning the tournament the following year (in a competition of two teams). And I subbed myself in all of the matches, because I was frankly terrible. I saw my role as being more in an advisory capacity. Alongside us, our male colleagues also had a less successful team. In fairness, they had to face significantly more competition than we did.
So a little reunion was taking place at the Brixton Rec, on the very day that the FA unveiled its new code of conduct for footballers. I.e. don’t text pictures of yourself wearing awful pants to ladies who perhaps can’t be trusted with them; don’t be a racist; don’t abuse your employers via Twitter (these are all good, solid pieces of life advice guys – you could do worse than take note).
As we prepared to say goodbye to our dear former colleague, Ali Davies From Perth (who has selfishly decided to go back to Perth, as in Australia), I thought it would be nice to get the gang together again for a kick about. Unfortunately, only six members of the gang wanted to play. So, there was Gemma (who was always our star player), Steve and I against Ali, Pete and James. 10 minutes after kick off on the tiny indoor pitch, complete with a faux, wallpapered crowd and a suspect drip from the ceiling that was either the sweat of the great unwashed or a squiffy air vent, and I felt physically sick. Maybe I couldn’t blame our national side for being rubbish, it is actually quite hard.
The match went a bit like this. Steve or Gemma scored, then Pete scored, then Steve or Gemma scored, then Pete scored. Every now and again, when he wasn’t booting the ball at my face like an actual terror-beast, James scored. Occasionally Ali saved a goal. I ran towards numerous balls that Steve or Gemma had set up for me in front of an open goals, and missed EVERY SINGLE TIME. In a game of about 15 goals a side, I scored one goal, when Pete literally jumped out of the way of the ball because he felt sorry for me. Humiliating.
Fortunately, I wasn’t let down by my team, who in our final first to five goals competition, managed to edge the fift goal past Pete to secure a 5-4 victory. A huge relief given my very precarious position at the top of the medal table. I needed that gold.
© Inspire a Jen, 2013.