The referee gives an extra little trill on his whistle and starts jogging gently towards the exit. It’s half time. He is the only one who doesn’t really care whether Manchester City – the “Blue Moon” boys – win or whether the Everton “Toffees” hold sway. The players who have much to ponder lower their heads as they trudge off the pitch. Those who are pleased with their performance so far have a spring in their step. The managers leave their marked-out zones and march purposefully off, lips pursed, mentally preparing for their half-time team talk.
As for the fans, they hang out, shoulders hunched, in their seats, or go off for a cuppa and a snack. Maybe a pie or a bag of crisps. I always wish I was there.
Oh, how I love the game of football. I love everything about it. There is nothing pretentious about football. It’s not always pretty. When a player makes a mistake and curses, you can read his lips quite clearly. Wayne Rooney was always good for this – it used to amuse me greatly. But since he grew back some hair on top and started his meds, he seems to have calmed down a lot and has become generally rather dull. I enjoy the little tantrums, though. I used to love the antics of the brilliant Mario Balotelli – his open rebelliousness, his angry glares – but now he’s back in Italy I don’t see him so often. Players also “dive,” of course. One of the best is the Dutchman Arjen Robben. I have already awarded him several Oscars for the agonized look on his face as he throws himself down and writhes in pain on the ground. Then gets up, hobbles for two seconds, and starts running again.
Equally, when a player is taking a corner close to fans of the opposing side, you can see the fans’ abusive gestures and their angry faces, especially if their team is losing. Football is tribal. Football fans don’t say nice things about other teams, or their fans. For example, Manchester United… and Tottenham Hotspur… Well, my comments would be unprintable, I’m afraid. I would be banned from WordPress.
Which brings me to a part of football that I would rather did not exist – the horrible racism that plagues the game, and never seems to go away. Football clubs around the world should just put their foot down and have a zero-tolerance policy. It must be literally stamped out. Racist fans should not be allowed anywhere near a football ground.
As my online friends know only too well, my heart belongs to Arsenal Football Club. We are The Pride of North London (perhaps not coincidentally, where I used to live). My family in England were rather snobbish and preferred the colonial throwback that is cricket; only my father used to take my young brother to Chelsea games sometimes (I grew up south of the river). Just to be different, I liked Fulham – because our milkman was a Fulham fan and in my childish view, a very cool person.
But what’s not to love about the Gunners? The current team is youthful and hard-working, and a veritable cast of characters. There is the “sexy Frenchman” and our top goal-scorer this season, Olivier Giroud (he has become even more sexy since a much-publicized frolic with a blonde model in a hotel room). We have two very cool Polish goalies with chubby faces and lightning-fast responses. One of them has too many consonants in his name. We have the gritty young Welshman Aaron “Rambo” Ramsey, who takes on every game as if his life depends on it. Pity he was injured at such a crucial time in the season for us, but that’s another story.
There is dear Bacary Sagna (who may be leaving us) who has had the same odd plaited blond hairstyle for years now but is Mr. Reliable Right Back. And then there is a trio of lovely Germans: Per Mertesacker, who has a kind of tree-trunk physique and a humorous face; the intense, pale and light-footed Mesut Özil; and the gorgeous, Polish-born Lukas Podolski, who has smooth good looks, the best legs in the business and can fire the ball into the goal like a bullet. And the English lads, Wilshere, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain (the latter has Jamaican heritage).
And presiding over them all, a tall, stern uncle with wrinkled brow is Arsène Wenger, from Alsace, who has a degree in Economics and is nicknamed “the Professor.” The players just call him “The Boss.” After so many years in England he still has a thick French accent, a wry smile, and a propensity for fiddling with his water bottle during the game. When he gets really upset, he hurls it to the ground and it bounces. He also has great difficulty zipping up his jacket on chilly days. The nervous habits of our managers are fascinating to watch.
Of course, I could go on and on about the wonders of Arsenal Football Club; win or lose, they are just the best. But at the risk of boring you all, I will cut to the chase and nail this point, once and for all…
Men! Yes, I am talking to you! There are many women like me who love football too! Jamaican men seem to think football is their domain (like dominoes and drinking white rum) and post patronizing comments online like, “Sorry ladies, bear with us, it’s the end of the EPL season.” On Saturdays, they expect their womenfolk to do girly things like have their nails done, go to the hairdressers and have coffee with their girly friends, while they cheer on their team.
So, Jamaican men, why not introduce your girlfriend (or wife, it’s never too late) to the thrills and spills of the English Premier League (in my view still the best league in the world)? You never know, it might enhance your relationship considerably. She will catch the passion. My husband and I bounce up and down together on the couch most Saturday mornings (no, don’t take that the wrong way, please). We make a lot of noise, too. If friends call and Arsenal is playing, we tell them rather curtly we will call them back later.
I have many girl friends (mostly abroad, admittedly) who are avowed football fans. On line, there is Ms Highbury (the name of Arsenal’s old ground) and many others. My old schoolfriend from my teenage years is, thankfully, also an avid Arsenal fan, along with her entire family.
So women, don’t allow your men to keep you away from what could be a fulfilling and energizing weekend pastime. Let’s face it, it’s boring sitting in the hairdressers for hours and listening to recycled gossip. Me? You know I would rather watch Podolski’s lovely legs running up and down the pitch, any day.
If you are an Arsenal fan, you can look at my Pinterest board here:http://www.pinterest.com/petchary/arsenal-football-club/ And my board with all those other teams, here:http://www.pinterest.com/petchary/footballand-im-talking-soccer/
Famous Arsenal fans: Matt Damon, Idris Elba, Spike Lee, Prince Harry, Jay-Z, Mick Jagger, the Queen of England, Fidel Castro…and the Lewis family of Kingston, Jamaica. Aren’t you impressed?