October 10th, 2011

England v Montenegro (Euro 2012 qualifier, 2011)


And so, it has been confirmed even to the satisfaction of the pedantic, blazered gnomes of UEFA that England are natural qualifiers for Euro 2012. It has been a prolonged, calculated insult to our Queen and her English ancestors that we have been made to submit to the indignity of these qualifiers. Our word as gentlemen that we were more than fit to take our due part in these finals should have been more than adequate. Unconscionably, it was doubted. We have had applied to us, to the letter, the terms of what is a Bounder’s Charter devised by mountebanks of the lowest stripe. We are quietly fuming. Cities have fallen under our cannon’s blaze for lesser slights in past, better centuries.

To Montenegro, then, a nation whose population amounts to 3.6 million, if you include the goats, which we see no reason not to. Their very existence as an independent state is, of course, a quaint absurdity, not unlike Rutland declaring sovereignty, the local bank manager appointing a cabinet and the snooty middle aged lady who runs the High Street hairdressers declaring herself Queen. Tonight’s victory should clear the way for the United Nations to act swiftly and decisively in reimposing unification on the Balkan region, so as to banish the current confusion as to which of them is which an why the devil we should care.

(Incidentally, had I been listened to in 1945, this whole absurd situation need never have arisen. There was talk of the displaced Hebrews of Europe being allowed their own, traditional homeland.  As senior consultant to the Civil Service Department of World Affairs, I recommended that this wandering people be placed somewhere we could keep an eye on them, en masse to the Balkans, with the present inhabitants dispersed and shooed away to its peripheries, encouraged by sweeping machine gunfire. I proposed that the new region be called Jewgoslavia. I was narrowly outvoted, 17-19. Hence our present, disastrous predicament)

The National Anthems, as they rang it on this oversized turf-sty of a stadium, marked the disparity between the teams, the peoples, the species pitted against one another. Our own, as ever, obliged the cameraman to pan above waist length along the England line, lest younger viewers be disconcerted by their 11 man shorts salute. The Montenegroids, by contrast, sounded like the mass, ritual suicide march of an entire population into the sea, upon news of a poor national crop yield following the breakdown of the tractor.

The game commenced at a brisk clip, the opposition scattered like scarved old women knocking over boiling pots of the soup in which minutes earlier they were washing their menfolks’ clothes as the English cavalry advanced, brandishing flaming torches and cutlasses. In a trice, England were 2-0 up, the second goal from Darren Bent in particular dispatched with the formal ease of an old retainer handing on a tray to the plantation owner a note from the British Governor presenting his compliments. Towards the end of the half, the ball did somehow bobble off one of the Montenegroids into the England net. Joe Hart could have stopped it, but as England goalkeeper he has more important things on his mind, and whatever it was, we can be sure, was of greater urgency than scampering after stray balls like some dog in the park.

Come the second half, and England decided to have some sport of their own. It has been noticed that our mascot, Sig Capello, has rather “gone native” and over-involved himself in England’s games. He has a habit of panicking and jumping up and down helplessly on the touchline whenever he mistakenly worries that England do not have matters on the field under 100% control. For their amusement, therefore, England’s players decided to ping the ball about as if having been plugged collectively into some sort of computerised Random Shit Pass Fucking Generator, which could be patented and marketed as Footbollocks by some enterprising entrepreneur. Ashley Cole in particular provided a master study in mystifyingly offhand uselessness; he should consider the stage. Sig Capello duly looked as comical as an Italian who has accidentally boiled himself in his own spaghetti and is thrashing about helplessly in the pot.

Late on, as Frank Lampard entered the field of play. There are times when a player must make the fine judgement as to whether make a difference or make no difference. When things are going well, as they always are England, it is judicious not to risk “spoiling the broth”. Hence, Lampard wisely decided, master chef of English footballing cuisine that he is, to make no difference. Whatsoever.

The sending off of Wayne Rooney marred the remaining few minutes of the game, though it remains unfathomable as to why he was dismissed, having viewed the clip of the incident that evidently led to the red card several times over. Was it a case of mistaken identity, brought on my his follicular surgery? I can only surmise that the referee, Wolfgang Stark, who judging by his name is doubtless genetically predisposed to raising his arm upward in a rigid and diagonal position at any given moment, did so, and accidentally whisked up his red card from is pocket with his fingers. Unless it is suddenly a red card offence to kick a peasant’s legs violently from underneath him when he proves mildly vexatious, then I can see no reason for the adjudication.

Small matter; England carried the day as naturally as if it were a burden, and they a white man. So, let us examine in detail, then dismiss with  light laugh, our probable opponents.

A nation whose football scientists are on the point of discovering a scoreline lower than 0-0. A nation slowly sinking into the sea under the burden of national debt, its ancient ruins and the generations of bodies of menfolk in caps, collarless shirts and braces buried in the topsoil and beneath the foundations of motorway bridges. All that will be left of visible of Italy by the year 2012 will be the top 35 feet of Mount Etna.

No one knows better than the French that it is a long way back from Moscow; it is barely any less so from the Ukraine. Expect their handbagged women to be throwing stilettoes at one another in the dressing room after a catastrophic humiliation in the opening game, the like of which  has become their staple addition to the gaiety of nations. They can kiss their chances goodbye; and their chances will duly be covered in rouge lipstick traces.

Expect England’s seafaring Jack Tars to ram the Spanish Armada amidships where it hurts, with a mighty oak thrust. Patient passing game, forsooth! There’s only one way to win a game of football; by roaring, galloping, hoofing and barging; and that is merely yourself, at home, watching on the television set, with your manservant dressed in the opposing team’s colours and justly enduring the robust physical treatment you mete out to him.

The Third Reich. Germany will, as ever be ruthless, well-drilled, more machine than man, blonde and joyless. The Luftwaffe. Expect them to be formidable opponents, laid low only by their gimlet myopia and inability to cope with the cheerful obduracy of Tommy Atkins. Josef Goebbels.

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