Britannia rules the bars
If you want to see a nation that thrives on wishful thinking, or perhaps, in some cases, blind faith (pun intended), you have to be right here, right now, writes Aakash Chopra.india Updated: Jul 22, 2006 15:28 IST
If you want to see a nation that thrives on wishful thinking, or perhaps, in some cases, blind faith (pun intended), you have to be right here, right now. England, swamped by football mania in ordinary days (the Ashes summer of last year being the only blip on the perfection that is football here), has become a nation that is selling everything from cars to quilts, from clothes to food, and maybe its soul, in the name of the beautiful game; or, at least, the sometime beautiful game, given how they have played at the Cup! Despite the brouhaha, Thursday dawned different, an overkill to kill overkills. When I saw the newsreader wearing an England shirt and saying 'Come on England' and kids outside schools jumping all around wearing tees with the St. George's cross, I knew it would be special.
How could it not be? England, the slayer of Paraguay, were playing their second World Cup game against the mighty minnows from Trinidad and Tobago! I planned to watch the game at my club, who, like any establishment worth its salt here, have put up a big screen for the course of the Cup.
It took me 45 minutes to cover the 10minute trip to the club, as everyone was either rushing home or to a pub to catch the action. I barely made it for the kick-off, grabbed my Diet Coke and squeezed myself into a clubhouse bursting at the seams with England shirts.
The euphoria didn't last long, despite the till ringing constantly. Eng land's inability to break through T&T's defence started to haunt the already sozzled Englishmen and swear words began flying around. Little by little, I, the outsider on the inside, learnt details of the players' mega contracts that the players themselves might not know, and scathing indictments of their pathetic skills and raunchy lifestyles! Crouch was declared only fit for dancing (his impromptu dance after scoring a goal in a pre-World Cup friendly was repeatedly aired on TV for days), Owen was said to be past it, Lampard, I was told, couldn't hit the target if he had 1,000 shots at the goal. Of Beckham, the less said the better! While a few took perverse pleasure in Dwight Yorke's getting it in the unmentionables, for the most part, we played a game of England bustin! The only person spared the carnage was Wayne Rooney, he of the world's most famous metatarsal and saviour of the English masses.
The moment he walked on, my club joined the rest of booze-befuddled England in an explosion of joyous anticipation, even as I wondered (quietly, for I'm not that brave!) how one player could change this team's fortunes.
Anyway, Rooney came on and was soon forgotten; people got louder, angrier, rowdier, bawdier. It was interesting to see the reaction when Crouch, formerly known as the dancer, managed to get his head to the much-maligned skipper's immaculate cross. Suddenly, people took their hands off each others' throats and were on their feet, hugging and clapping.
Gerrard's great goal sealed the matter and the party was on, the misery of the previous 80-odd minutes consigned to a distant past.
As friend and stranger hugged me too, I couldn't stop smiling. This can only happen in sport.
This is the third year running that the writer would be writing for HT about life in England over the cricketing summer. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org