Mon dieu! Gary’s goals didn’t half quieten the French lads

England's World Cup goalden boy Gary Lineker.

England’s World Cup goalden boy Gary Lineker.

It was damned hot, as you’d expect, in Majorca in June 1990. I was 18.

I remember it fondly for a couple reasons. Firstly, because it was my last holiday with my mum, dad and brother before I flew the nest (and they let me take my then girlfriend with me).

Secondly, it was there where I experienced the genuine agony and ecstasy of the World Cup as only an Englishman abroad can.

Our hotel’s guests were a genuine mix of nationalities and each night we would all gather in the cinema room to watch the footy.

I recall there being an awful lot of noisy French lads in there who would adopt any nation that was playing England as their own, much to my annoyance.

No wonder we do so badly in the Eurodrivel Song Contest.

“Belgique! Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap – clap, clap, clap, clap, Belgique!

That’s all I could hear for almost two hours.

Still, no matter. A dinked free-kick from Psycho and there was ex-Crewe boy David Platt to swivel and volley home from eight yards out in the dying seconds of injury time.

Cue unbridled joy among the English contingent and much gnashing of teeth among the pseudo-Belgians.

A couple of days later mes amis adopted Roger Milla’s African surprise package and chants of ‘Cam-air-rune’ (trust me, that’s what it sounded like) drowned out the commentary.

Then suddenly, mon dieu, it all went quiet over there. God bless Gary Lineker’s penalty-kicking boots, that’s all I can say.

In the semis, the French lads even sided with the Germans – which I thought was jolly unsporting.
I think we all knew it would end badly, didn’t we?

The Germans went through on penalties and the French contingent whooped like they had just won the trophy themselves.

Gazza cried. He wasn’t the only one.

To be fair, the German guests were magnanimous in their victory – shaking hands and even buying the beer. You remember stuff like that.

Twenty years later and here we all are again getting our hopes up, planning barbecues when it’s bound to rain and coming up with excuses to skive off work when Fabio’s boys are playing.

And who can blame us?

Forget the 2012 Olympics, forget Britain’s Got Talent, forget the General Election – there is simply no show on Earth which raises our passions quite like the football circus which has just arrived in South Africa.

Now all this talk about the flag of Saint George being an offensive symbol which has been appropriated by the Far Right is shown to be rubbish.

Suddenly the PC brigade have gone quiet because you can’t move for English flags hanging from windows, fluttering on vehicles and branded on to every product under the sun.

Nonsensical studies and predictions abound – claiming, for example, that every goal England score beyond the knockout stage of the World Cup (if we get that far) will be worth £126 million to retailers back home.

I mean, come on! On the back of which fag packet was that calculated?

We lap it up, nonetheless, along with the proper ‘Rio crocked’ type news from England’s base.

Meanwhile, one national newspaper is already digitally placing a second winners’ star above the Three Lions badge in its TV adverts as Terry Venables croons at us from the goggle box like your mad uncle at a wedding.

Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that never has so much hype been written by so many, about so few.
‘Fifty million believers’ screams a Sky TV poster.

And yes, I’m one of them.

On Saturday family and friends will gather round the telly in my living room as the action unfolds and yours truly sits there, wrapped in a Port Vale-doctored flag of Saint George, no doubt resorting to a bit of Anglo-Saxon now and again. (Sadly, we’ve no room for French spectators).

Of course, on Saturday it won’t matter if you’re Stoke, Vale or Crewe, black or white, or if you only watch football every four years.

On Saturday, for better or worse, we are all English and it’s glorious. Bring it on…


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