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Let’s (not) talk about six, baby

06/23/2018

When it happened in 2007 I hid in a cinema and watched a film about Joe Strummer. It was a cracking documentary with a rollicking punk soundtrack and being more than a couple of hours long was pretty much the perfect length to avoid what was going on elsewhere that particular evening in a far-flung corner of Europe. The campfire vibe relaxed me and being hidden away in a darkened room with only a big screen to focus on meant that I was safely out of range of any sights and sounds from outside. Perfect. In fact, such was my mood, that I would happily have sat and watched Love Actually or some such tosh for a couple of hours. After the events of two years before it felt like the most sensible course of action to avoid further suffering.

When the film came to an end shortly after ten and I emerged from the cinema, crossed the road and headed towards the bus station, I noticed straightaway that there were only two blokes left in the first pub that I came to and they were both wearing the same red and black striped top and were smiling broadly as they chatted. And when I peered through the window at a large television screen that lit up the far wall I began to smile too and almost skipped onto the 76 bus that was waiting for me when I got to the station. I didn’t have a smart arse phone back then, only a blue mini-brick of a thing that I used only for phone calls and texts, so I would have to wait until I got home to check the details. But really all that mattered was that the unthinkable hadn’t happened – the number six had been avoided. Nice one.

Then a few weeks ago it happened again. This time it was on a Saturday, rather than a midweek, evening and as it was a lovely warm early summer’s day we decided to head to the seaside – to Margate to be precise where we spent an afternoon boozing in micro-pubs (of which the Thanet coast has many wonderful examples), scoffing fish and chips and cake and wandering round the Turner art gallery. But even by mid-afternoon I’d seen several people who merely by their choice of crimson leisurewear I knew would be at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum from me when it came to that evening’s main event.

So, rather than linger on the seafront where the pubs were already doing a brisk trade we opted instead to find a small Good Beer Guide recommended backstreet pub about a mile or so away from the beach and the harbour. It was almost empty when we got there and as the sun was still out we opted to get a couple of pints and sit outside at the front of the pub. It was a perfect spot to get away from it all. Or so I thought. But after about ten minutes and with the evening’s event that I was steadfastly trying to avoid rapidly approaching a group of people emerged from round the corner and headed in our direction. Two families with the four children kitted out in similar, but more up to date, red leisurewear to that I’d seen around the town earlier. Instead of paint and electrical appliance manufacturers bankers were now to the fore – a sign of the times indeed.

And my heart sank as they all trooped into the pub and promptly asked for the big screen telly, that filled almost an entire wall of the pub, and that I had patently failed to notice earlier, to be switched on. The kids were by now getting very giddy. The number six might only be a couple of hours away. We promptly supped up and headed back into town where we got another couple of pints at a television-less harbour side pub and gazed out to sea and watched the setting sun. From across the harbour there was a muffled cheer and then, a few minutes later, a louder cheer and I began to fear the worst. Later on as darkness descended we meandered back to the railway station and, after boarding a London-bound train, I checked my phone for the first time that evening – it must be almost over by now surely.

I must admit I’m a right wuss when it comes to looking up football scores on the internet as, rather than cut straight to a website where I’ll see the score instantly, I prefer to fumble around on Twitter instead – if there is pain to be dealt with I’d rather it be softened a little by the cyber-embrace of others that are feeling it too – it’s like an online support group really. You can ease yourself in gently by seeing a scoreline filtered through the thoughts of like-minded people. So when, fearing the worst, I began scrolling through my timeline I was surprised to almost immediately hit upon a “happy Treble day” message (the 26th May is, of course, our day). Ah, someone’s just trying to make the best of a bad evening I thought – fair play to them. But then a few tweets on the scoreline from the thing I’d been trying to avoid all evening zapped into my eyeballs – Real Madrid 3 Liverpool 1. Get in there you fucking Franco-supporting bastards. Somehow, it appeared, a sixth European Cup win for Liverpool had been avoided again. Later the match report with its tales of goalkeeping howlers and Spanish subterfuge would make for beautiful reading.

Which is all a bit daft, not to say third year infant playground stuff, when I think about it in the cold, non-footballing light of day as one of my best mates is a Liverpool supporter. He lives abroad these days but usually the Whatsapp messages flow between us on music, football, politics and books but for the last few weeks since the 26th May the airwaves have gone a little quiet and we still haven’t exchanged thoughts on Liverpool’s quest for a sixth big pot.

On Monday morning when someone at work asked me if I’d watched the match and I told them how I’d spent my Saturday they likened it to that famous episode of The Likely Lads. But this wasn’t anywhere near as likeable or amusing as Bolam and Bewes. In a televisual sense it was more akin to watching Doctor Who when you’re a kid and shitting it behind the settee when the Daleks appear. Pure unadulterated fear. At times like this the energy that we invest in football rivalries and watching (or not watching) twenty two men kick a bag of wind around a patch of grass is completely irrational, utterly absurd and totally bloody emotionally exhausting.

Still, at least the scouse bastards didn’t win number six, eh 🙂

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From → Personal, Sport

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