Friday, June 16, 2006

Dressing Up

Time was when rushing and kicking and screaming around the football field was the activity for the national winter sport. When the cricket season began it was a signal that summer had arrived and the howling mobs of winter soccer fans were relegated to quieteness for a few months whilst the flannelled fools established that unmistakable click of leather on willow followed by polite applause.

Sadly, with the advent of the Packer Test Cricket Matches the screaming fans have found their way onto the summer terraces echoing their winter counterparts.

What still distinguishes the two sets of fans, however, is the dress.

Winter scarves in the livery of the football team together with a bobble hat in suitable colours created a sea of colour from which the songs, many based upon hymn tunes, and chants would rise before giving way to throat-ripping screams as a possible goal approached.

Sun hats over a ruddy complexion from the beer consumed, together with the essential accessory of an umbrella, is what the avid cricket fan sports.

In a year of a football World Cup our relatively peaceful summer is hijacked by the screaming hoards. Everywhere is evidence of their presence; the flags draped around shoulders; the fluttering flags on cars and the unmistakable renaming of this fair land, now called, ‘Ing-ger-laaaand’ until the 10th July when cricket is permitted to return, and the football population pontificate about how, ‘We was robbed’, of victory.

What I find utterly bewildering is the number of players who comprise a team. In my childhood each team had 11 players and some reserves. Now the streets and pubs are full of players in England team shirts. Observing the physique of most of the these ‘team players’ explains why England seldom win the world cup. They are some of the most unhealthy couch sloths imaginable. It has been pointed out to me that they are not team players but 'supporters'. I am led by this information to ponder the motivation for the ‘dressing up’ and the thought that these sad fans could ever be mistaken for a Beckham or a Gazza.

When I entertain at children’s fancy dress birthday parties I have been known to dress up as a character, in the line of duty of course, and certainly the little ones play at being Superman, Batman, Spiderman and Buzz Lightyear.

Recently, whilst purchasing a military costume for a performing job, the Army Surplus shop assistant informed me that his biggest sales were at Christmas and New Year adult fancy dress parties.

What is the emotional age of these adults who parade themselves in England football kit I wonder? Moreover, what is going on when these most unfit people sport the name of a particular player upon their shirt. Just who do think they are kidding? I can understand hero worship amongst the young, emulating a pop or sporting idol. The young still have the potential to become like their hero, but the lumbering beer-gutted middle-aged man??
Please . . .


Brian Sibley said...

Maybe it's because I never understood either game - cricket or football - that I find the current World Cup tribalism incredibly scary: suddenly finding yourself living in the midst of an alien culture, not undertsnding what anyone is singing or chanting (or only knowing words that are clearly no longer right) and worrying in case anyone notices that you are Not Joining In!

Scrooge said...

As I sit here, I am sporting (if you'll pardon the pun)my England shirt. To the non-initiate, the wearing of the comunal uniform can be quite scary I guess, especially as it is displayed at England matches where it seems to represent the epitome of every type of activity or attitude we seek to distance ourselves from.In fact, the individual transcends the outward appearence whether it be a local or national team that one supports. Yes, there will be those that want to blend in with the group and share their identity and I don't think thats always a bad thing. Tribalism exists across the board - whether it be represented by a shirt or a Mason's apron but there is always more. When I wear a Notts County shirt, it's usually because I am on holiday somewhere and have a bit of home with me. On the beach or wandering along the seafront, I keep inside, a few of those brisk Autumn days wandering along to Meadow Lane with my children on either side of me, speaking to friends at the ground, eating freshly cooked chips, enjoying a hot chocolate and feeling the warmth seep right through me. You never fail to get a comment or a word from those others who, though we may support a different team, share the same experiences.We chat on the pierhead or the prom about players and teams of shared association and then we move on, the happier for the exchange. Such is the world beyond televised, hyped up TV football.Its a side you probably don't see and won't see but it is the roots of the game and by far the nicer part ! There is a world beyond the more obvious tribalism but, like the Masons, it may be behind a locked door....