A Reading of World Cup Fever.
Cometh men, women and children for the capitulation of our nation and its sporting crusade.
I speak, of course, about the island whose journeying countrymen sully the shores of every World Cup host nation, using chairs as artillery and doorways as pissers in a mist of sporting hoodlumery. These pilgrims will endeavour to wrestle England to its rightful place at the top of the football food chain, paying homage to Harry Maguire’s oversized skull and its ‘no nonsense’ heroics.
During the tournament, our chests bust wide with the pride we feel for our boys, buoyed by the lost love we hold for an ancient crest of arms, which sees us united by three African mammals sewn onto our sun-starved torsos. The national bond reaches fever pitch in the semi-final, when Kieran Trippier caresses a free kick into the top corner with all the grace of Pirlo in his latter, beardier days. Just like that, the boy from Bury secures himself a lifetime of free pints at any pub within our shores. (He probably doesn’t drink much). Beers are thrown everywhere, while new brotherhoods are forged nationwide in sticky circumstances. The same moist conditions prevail from Souf’ampton to Scunforp. Hell, even Swindon’s popping off.
But in these beery conditions, the atmosphere swings between passion and rage. The boys had better win…
Croatia can’t get the ball to Modrić, and so the game descends into a veritable creaming by Gareth and his lovely waistcoat. Unsurprisingly, the English finish their creaming prematurely at around the 68th minute, as if scripted. This comes as Perišić cunningly masquerades as someone who isn’t a very good winger by wearing the number 4 shirt. His breach of number protocol bears fruit, as he hammers home a pesky goal and England falls to its knees, its ego disintegrating before its eyes.
In a tragicomic dénouement, while we’re on our knees, it’s the least stylish man in Croatian football who scores the winning goal and soils the reputation of everything English. The culprit is Mario Mandžukić, who – modelling the chosen hair of Year 9 boys circa 2009 – looks a lot like the guy selling cheap cocaine to tourists outside every central European nightclub ever. Just add a tight Armani t-shirt and black studded belt to complete the look. Imagine him shouting at you when you don’t buy. He’d probably kick you like he kicked that football into our goal, really bloody hard. And so, his soiling complete, he smears a big footballing skid mark on our swans, our pubs, Shakespeare, and our Crown Jewels.
Yet flip back to the ‘United’ Kingdom, and there’s a very real problem at hand. According to the latest statistics, Domestic Abuse rates increase by 38% whenever England lose. Serving as a reality check, perhaps it’s time to stop viewing football as a space of conflict that rips us apart, but rather as a shared space that brings us together. It’s nice to see your country at the top level of football, but not to the detriment of people’s lives domestically. When it comes to English football, perhaps Mario Mandžukić should be the least of our worries.