Three hundred or so low guttural individual voices Combine into a cohesive whole, a chorus of Feral anticipation as custard coloured titans Skip on to the pitch, the first among them kind of Punches limply through a paper hoop Emblazoned with their team sponsor's logo, J. Arthur Bowyer's Synchro-Boost Houseplant Compost, Three half-hearted palm slaps and then the paper gives way, These athletic specimens of masculinity and matching socks, Shiny blue polyester shorts a-gleam under the spotlights, Back slaps and star jumps, half-hearted jogging, While the opposing team, who must have had an Awfully long bus ride, kind of slouch on to the field, Mooching along the sides of the pitch like slugs around lettuce.
I'd brought a book to read assuming there would be seats. Instead I was pressed up against the lanky frame of an Ever so friendly thought unusually potty-mouthed A rote of a lad who replica custard coloured shirt Had last year's sponsor, McClintock's Polystyrene Coving Ltd., And who suggested at top column that the home team Might like to consider breaking the fucking legs of the opposition. Someone then tried to start a chant going, 'Oh we do like to beat them beside the seaside! We're gonna beat you by two or three!' But it kind of got drowned out To a chant of 'Put them all in intensive care! Put them all in intensive care! Put them all in intensive care! Captain Ollie's got great hair!'
I have come with a friend who's there for the football But also to show me the football and he Made a kind of grimace when I said I'd brought a book. The home team did some warm up exercises. 'They're dancing!' I said, 'it's all a bit camp, isn't it?' Number 32 is just my type, bleach blond hair, stubble, Long legs and snake hips. 'Coooo-eeeee! Over here! Yoooo-hooooo!' My pal said, 'He's on loan from Bournemouth'. I said, 'That's okay, I'd give him back in one piece'.
The stadium announcer extols the virtues of both teams And attests to the veracity of J. Arthur Bowyer's Synchro-Boost Houseplant Compost, And the game begins, number 32s elegant fingers splayed As he dribbles the ball, like he's a ballet dancer, Or a gymnast balancing on a beam, though even The home team audience yells that he's a useless Time wasting tossbag who gets the ball and does fuck all, Go back to Bournemouth you useless waste of space. He's got lovely eyes.
The ground rumbles and thuds as they race from one end To the other, kicking up clods of grass and winning The applause of the audience who shout encouragement, These lads in custard who aim at the goal at the other end, Someone misses a sitter, someone else scuffs it, And then the ball goes in the corner and two opposing players Prance and dance around it like Torville and Dean. My eyes kind of wander off to the other side Where twenty or so or the away team supporters chirrup And you can just make out the faded lettering of Last years sponsor showing through under a new coat of paint, McClintock's Polystyrene Coving Ltd. is better than any competition. Only the word 'tit' is still showing.
My pal has already told me in advance The skill of number 10, whose speciality is Less the sublime and precocious nature of his craft, More his knack for falling over at just the right moment, Now he goes down like a sack of spuds and the Audience erupts, apparently this is a good thing, He's allowed to aim a ball at the keeper and boom, In it goes, I almost spill my cup of tea As I'm jostled and the lad next to me flings His arms around my neck, jumps up and down, the Tea oscillates as I breathe in his Lynx Africa antiperspirant, I must say I enjoy it a lot. And now I want number 10 to fall over again.
Wouldn't you know it, he does, never fails to disappoint, Fortune smiles twice in the low setting sun, Achilles in his death throes, Icarus mid melt, Our hero is downfallen and rolling in the mud like a hippo, The ref's cheek bones prominent as his blows his whistle. Boom, scores! The audience is enraptured once again, Another clingy embrace of Lynx Africa, I'm a cuppa carrying eucalyptus and he's my own personal koala, Number 32 looks down wistfully as if jealous, I hope, Oh, I hope, of me and my new found tame delinquent Who sips a surreptitious beer from a paper bag and Chinks against my half spilled Darjeeling, cheers! Caught up in the joy of the moment I attempt to start a chant Based on the third movement of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony But it doesn't take hold.
Really, I'm only here for my pal who's brought me along. This is his culture and I'm an interloper. But I want to show that I understand life Beyond the cliche, broaden my mind and experience Every nuance of our shared cultural history. 'We're winning ', he says during the interval As we queue for pies sold from a shed Next to the unoccupied press box. 'Well, they are', I point out, 'We're just watching'. I'm taking him to a drag show next weekend.
And then the announcer wants us all to sing happy birthday For Little Liam, whose favourite player is number ten. And Little Jimmy, whose favourite player is number ten, And Little Jack, whose favourite player is number ten, And he reminds us that we can all vote for the J. Arthur Bowyer's Synchro-Boost Houseplant Compost Man of the Match, which is usually won by number ten. 'I'd like to vote for number 32', I say, perhaps too loudly, And everyone around me laughs and says how funny, They love my sense of humour.
Two more goals soon after the interval. Perhaps the audience has tired itself out, I'm the only one who seems excited, and my new friend In the McClintock shirt hardly seems inclined at all To repeat his usual celebratory hijinx, no doubt Enervated by his previous exertions and the two litre bottle of cider Stuffed down the front of his trackie bottoms, And when the ref calls a halt to the show I pat My pal on the back and ask whether four nil in some kind Of club record. It was two all, he says, they switched ends. They what? Why didn't the announcer explain this Before I got excited over nothing?
Oh, this communal kickabout, this colossal crowd clapping This unified oneness this matey definitely not homoerotic bonding, This celebration of the hunter's skill this All-encompassing rough and tumble this slippery sport a spurt With spurious curiosities this worship of the physical This proof of prayer this spectacle this weird excuse To suddenly bellow 'Nice tackle!' and no one bats an eyelid This playing out of certain urges but would they ever let me Join in? No, probably not, and number ten has got mud all over him.
What did you think?, my pal asks As we file like clocked off factory workers Into the adjacent streets, not that he's interested really, Immediately he then adds, shall we get some chips?
I think of number 32 Isolated In the dressing room.