Time was in English football, when attending a football match was a matter of life and death. In those days, a typical football fan wishing to watch his dear club live on the pitch must as a matter of fact take out a life insurance policy upon renewing his annual season ticket.
He must prepare his soul for the after life by attending a confession on the night before the match day and for prudence, taking Extreme Unction on the match day is highly recommended. The aforementioned measures were necessary to ensure one’s soul was saved for heaven on the unlikely event that one fell in battle, but only on rare cases throughout the cherished history of this event did it ever happen.
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Before heading to the stadium, a good football fan as part of his preparations for an enjoyable game and a good battle, must wear his club’s currently approved jersey complemented with a brass knuckle. Bottled beer was supplied at the venue of the battle by the fan club management. This was a highly sort after necessity without which there would not be any meaningful and enjoyable battle. It served a dual purpose of which, once the content was drunk to lubricate the voice and get one in the mood for battle, the bottle then became a ready made missile to be launched at the enemy. Out of English sense of fair play, participants in this cherished football tradition were not allowed to carry any guns, and carrying a knife or axe were frowned upon except on rare occasions, but secreting on one’s person a cosh was welcomed.
Why all these extreme measures, you might ask?
Well, English football tradition in those days was a colourful event in the form of pitch battles between rival fans before and after each match. It was both a show of manhood and a rite of passage to participate in the event, which could take place either inside or outside the stadium. In most cases where the police are unnecessarily aggressive or restrictive, the rival gangs can arrange to have the event at an agreed venue.
The requirements of a good English football fan were drunkenness, a brassy voice, an aptitude to swear like a trooper at your club players, the opponents and the police. A loyal fan must be prepared to give and receive a bloody nose or split skull from the rival side or from the police. To be an overnight guest of the Metropolitan Police was the icing on the cake and a black eye, a badge of honour. Smashing shop windows and burning a few cars were part of this cherished tradition of English football, which detractors derogatorily referred to as football hooliganism. People who coined the name, football hooliganism, were those who traditionally hated football and jealous of the fun fans derived from the event. It was a harmless fun, just ask any diehard English football fan.
Sadly, the English football has over the years undergone a major transformation and become awash with foreign investments, which means that those happy days are long gone although sporadic battles still break out, but these are just over-excited fans exercising their rights to preserve a cherished tradition. Nevertheless, a typical English football supporter still goes through a lot of agonies at each new football season, which are akin to childbirth.
Drummond Selfridge is a passionate supporter of his local football club. He is a farmer and lives in the countryside with his family of five consisting of his wife, three boys and a girl. He goes to some of the matches when he can but most often religiously follows the fortunes of his club on the radio, TV and newspapers. Win or lose, his family suffers weekly. If his club wins, he will have a skin-full at his local pub and totters down the road to his home, singing sea shanties that would make Long John Silver blush. Most often he will finish the last stretch to his house on all fours, on his hands and knees. On several occasions he would bump onto the lamppost, take his hat off, apologise and exchange pleasantries.
On one particular occasion when his team against all odds beat the current league leading club by 3 goals to nil, Drummond went berserk with joy. That night his beery voice could be heard a mile away singing his heart’s out as loud as his lungs could carry, and as he was about to stumble into his compound, a young she-goat which had wandered off from the rest of the flock was standing by the gate, just inside the compound cropping grasses. Drummond went to the goat and embraced her. What’s that heavenly perfume you are wearing, madam?” Drummond asked the goat, “It’s so invigorating and sexy. I congratulate you on your excellent choice of perfume. Shall we dance?” They did the tango and the foxtrot, and Drummond complimented her on her excellent dancing agility. It was only when the goat replied, “Baa,” that Drummond sobered up.
Once inside his compound, Drummond would go straight to the barn where he stashed his home-brew elderberry wine. He would drink himself senseless and pass out. But if his team loses, Drummond will quietly make his way home and into the barn, drink a bottle or two of his elderberry wine and then the trouble would begin as he would start to smash anything within reach, including the windowpanes of the main house. At such times the family would overpower him and lock him up in the barn until the morning when he would have sobered up.
Drummond was a good husband and father, and a good provider. The family loved him so much as to forgive him of this flaw in character, but the family was rather tired of replacing windowpanes so that they worked out a well-rehearsed strategy for dealing with Drummond: if he came home pensive, they would march him straight to the barn and lock him up taking care to remove all his elderberry wine but for a couple of bottles.
Drummond’s football club last season managed to avoid the drop only by a miracle. Not that they did not play very well, they did but sadly they could not find their opponents’ goal posts. In fact, they only managed to score 16 goals all season and that included 3 own goals by their opponents. You can imagine the joy Drummond felt when his club signed a new striker from Nigeria called Nwabelle who was reputed to be deadly in front of goals.
At the start of the football season, Drummond who holds a season ticket for all of their home matches was delighted and looked forward to the first match of the season, which happened to be a home match. All week prior to the match, he was excited and talked of nothing else but the match. When the day finally arrived, Drummond was awake at the crack of dawn, dressed in all his club’s glory and was at the stadium almost 2 hours before kickoff time. But what he witnessed in the game left him entirely speechless. He had never seen such a display before, nor come to think of it, neither had anyone else. It was an unforgettable experience that would haunt him for the rest of his adult life. When the game ended, he quietly made his way home.
The family were out in force waiting for Drummond by the gate. As they sighted him walking down the road towards them, his eyes on the ground and muttering inaudibly to himself, the eldest of the children, Jason, stepped forward to meet his father a score of yards away.
“Evening dad,” he greeted Drummond amiably.
“Evening son,” Drummond replied absently.
Jason detected a note of sadness in his father’s reply and said guardedly, “Cheer up dad, as the jockey said to the horse, why the long face?”
“It’s the new striker we bought,” replied Drummond morosely.
“Nwabelle, was he any good?”
“He was good alright! Scored a hat trick today.”
“You should be happy then,” Jason replied quite relieved, signalling to the troops to stand down.
“No, I am bloody well not! I think the poor bloody sod was drunk. Half of the time the bloody striker did not know which side paid his wages! We lost the game by one goal to two! I have a mind to sue the bloody agent who sold him to us. We bought a bloody dud!”
Jason immediately asked the troops to move in.
Culled from Jokes and Stories to Brighten Your Day by Dr Gabriel Chukwu Uguru; In preparation.
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