Thursday 17 June 2010

The great game of coping, otherwise known as a spot of jingoistic vuvuzela blowing

We volunteers hear a lot about coping strategies, ie what we do to manage the cultural, linguistic and social differences and isolation we all encounter during our placements. Some folks bring hobbies out with them  - painting, photography, embroidery and the like. As readers of this blog will be aware I brought lots and lots of reading material. But now, the World Cup fever that has grabbed some of my fellow volunteers especially those who are in locations where they can get TV,  has me thinking about what I would be doing at home during this period - answer: I'd be glued to the TV screen. So this blog is indulging in a bit of jingoistic nostalgia.

I've never been in a country when the World Cup is being staged there, and it has been some years since my home country qualified, so for many years now I have had to make do with supporting my adopted country, England else I usually follow the typically Scottish trait of supporting the underdog!  But that's never quite the same as cheering on one's own side, no matter how bad they are playing and how slim there chances are. So in the absence of Scotland from these championships, I have to recall the highlight of Scotland's near misses when trying to qualify from the group phase and that of course means replaying what is arguably one of the best World Cup goals ever! and which reached a whole new generation of an audience in Danny Boyle's classic film of Irving  Welsh's book Trainspotting. I remember sitting in a flat in Liverpool in 1978 watching every game over the TV links from Argentina, oh the joys and the heartaches, so close yet so far. We remained the only team to beat The Netherlands, other than tournament winners and hosts Argentina, yet we still did not qualify for the second stages and never have. Sob, sob :( In more recent years we haven't even qualified for the finals.

Likewise this year. So again the question of who to support? In the past it has usually ended up being England by default. But this year's grouping have a hidden dimension for me. England's group for the first stage comprising The United States, Algeria and Slovenia - so my home is in England, I have lived in the US, and my heart resides in Algeria. Only Slovenia and I have no connection. In the country in which I am currently living, most folks don't even know what it is all about:  India being more noted for its cricket & hockey teams than its football one. So I can appear quite neutral until tomorrow night when England play Algeria - right, who am I kidding!  If I was in England, people will be watching the match either on TV in someone's home or on a sports pub's big screen and lots of beer will be drunk, win or loose. In Algeria, no alcohol but just as much football frenzy and there I'd also be watching it in someone's house and if Algeria win , probably the butt a lot of good humoured teasing.

But here in India I have neither TV nor big screen, so I am looking forward to tomorrow nights game in absentia. I did think about trying to get radio coverage online when I remembered sitting in a hotel in Morocco once when there was a match on TV and  the Arabic commentator kept saying what I heard as "flying" in amongst the to me unintelligble arabic gutterals. At first I thought "oh how strange he's using an English word" - I'm thinking along the lines of "he is flying down the wing", "the ball is flying to the players feet", "he sent that pass flying across the field" etc , only to suddenly comprehend it was Leeds United playing and they had a player called Brian Flynn! Unfortunately, some 30 odd years later, an Arabic news station will be just as unintelligible to me tomorrow night until someone scores

For now the news in the lead up to the game has been concentrating on the poor performances of each team in their first matches - both England and Algeria goal keepers have come in for a lot of stick. Now being from a country which has had more than its fair share of howlers in that department - Scotland had its Rough patches even in our memorable 1978  escapade - I do have some sympathy to extend here to  England's Robert Green, who came a cropper against USA  and who looks like having the dubious honour of now becoming part of the first footie viral video legend (did anyone else think of Bob the Builder when watching this lego brick like animation?), and to Algeria's Faouzi Chaouchi who didn't fair much better in their first match against Slovenia. So who will pick their game up for Friday's match? I hope it is a game that is won rather than lost, that it is one of goal keeping saves from stunning shots, and goals that deserve to contribute to the score line. I suppose the intelligent money has to be on an England win, but don't write off the Desert Foxes just yet. Although they were thrashed 3-0 by both the Republic of Ireland and Serbia in lead up games, they can pull one out of the bag when it matters and a 1-0 defeat of African Cup holders Egypt to qualify shouldn't be scoffed at. So I shall be imagining me sitting in front of a TV deep in the Sahara with A and friends tartan scarf in one hand cheche in the other........Allez les fennecs!

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