Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Having Some Me, Me, Me Time

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Having Some Me, Me, Me Time

Article excerpt

England did so well against the might of Montenegro, the unbeaten group leaders. Nil-nil was excellent. Having a hundred times the population, being a hundred places higher in the world rankings, are terrible disadvantages these days. Then there's playing at home: I was up cheering every time England got a throw-in.

The only disappointment was that the Montenegrin captain, Mirko Vucinic, didn't play. He was the one who, in the previous game, tore his shorts off after scoring, shoved them on his head and stood there in his undies--and, alas, caught a chill. I was longing for him to play, just to see if he would repeat his celebration.

For goal celebrations tell us a lot about the progress of the game, and of society generally. Pre-war, when you scored, the captain shook your hand, then you walked quietly, modestly back to the centre spot, head bowed.

Postwar, group celebrations crept in, with the whole team rushing to congratulate the scorer, often totally submerging him, sometimes covering him with kisses--a rather sissy habit that we tut-tutted about at first, blaming it on effeminate foreigners, until we got used to it. Just as we are now used to big, beefy English blokes hugging each other in the street when they meet, even when they're not drunk.

Along the way, there were some unusual displays: handstands from Robbie Keane, prearranged routines with silly dance steps and, now and again, personal statements like pulling up your shirt to reveal that you love Jesus or support the miners, but these were rare. …

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