Thursday, 28 May 2009

Antidote to a game less beautiful

To our neighbours’, David and Becky, last night for a barbecue.

We don’t eat much meat generally, which made a barbecue all the more fun. I felt as though I was indulging in a near-forbidden pleasure.

The best bit was that Becky mixes a mean cocktail. It comes in layers, one red, one yellow. I can’t remember which is on top: once I’d started the second glass, I could no longer tell and didn’t care anyway. I think of it as a girly drink – you know, multi-coloured, with a stick of some kind in it: it looks like a straw, though it’s too short for a straw, and it might be a stirrer, but who’d want to disturb the balance of the layers? But effeminate or not, no-one’s going to stop me enjoying a drink that good.

The occasion for our visit next door was a sporting encounter of some kind. As well as those of us around the barbecue, there were fourteen guys – yes, all guys – stuck firmly in front of the TV inside. They were there to cheer on some team from Manchester, whose leading star is the great Mancunian Cristiano Ronaldo (born Funchal, Portugal) playing another team from Barcelona, whose outstanding player is the great Catalan Lionel Messi (born Rosario, Argentina).

The stars of the Manchester United side are paid nearly three times more in a week than someone on median earnings in England takes in a year. Note that I don’t say that they ‘earn’ that money: you have to deserve something to be said to earn it. Call me picky, but I feel that for that level of pay, it’s not unreasonable to demand something in the way of a performance from the players.

Football is often called ‘the beautiful’ game. Well, there are types of beauty that I have to admit just pass me by: the flavour of oysters, the sounds of heavy metal, the humanity of Lars von Trier’s films. With rare exceptions, football to me belongs in that category. Yesterday there were no exceptions.

Much more interesting was the reaction of the audience in front of the telly. It was great watching them giving advice to the players. I checked but there really wasn’t a two-way communication device on the TV. Presumably they were relying on telepathy to get the message to the players, or as I like to think of them, perpetrators.

The messages themselves were not without their charm. A key feature of football is called the ‘pass’. Now I’ve watched carefully on numerous occasions and it seems to me that what this means is booting the ball in the general direction of a team mate but with a pretty much evens chance that it will actually fall at the feet of an opponent. This happened with monotonous frequency yesterday, and one of my fellow guests seemed keen to suggest that the culprit, from the great city of Liverpool, might perhaps not be in possession of enviable intellectual faculties. You understand that I paraphrase. The actual expression involved the words ‘Scouser’ and ‘twit’. Delicacy forbids me repeating the qualifier that preceded the other two words: let me just say that it suggested that Wayne Rooney had been engaging in sexual intercourse.

To be honest, had he actually been engaging in sexual intercourse it might have enlivened an otherwise tedious spectacle. Though, on second thoughts, that might not have been much of an improvement for those of us of a heterosexual bent, there being only 23 men on the field, including the referee.

In any case, I had a glass of Becky’s extra special in my hand. With that to fall back on, little could be wrong with the world. So 2-0 to Barça or not, I had a good evening, even if few around me did.

And there’s always next year.

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