For a major international tournament junkie like myself, summers in the odd-numbered years are the worst of times. As such, no amount of luxury on my holidays can ease the pain of the absence of a World Cup or European Championship finals. Even allowing for Scotland’s continued inability to connect with the 21st century, I miss, nay need, a big summer football event. A mid-life crisis only makes matters worse whereby I’m forced to accept an ever-increasing gap between myself and those much younger (and of course fitter) men I choose to cheer on. Surely I’m not alone in this respect – there must be thousands of similar sad old gits out there. My solution – a biennial seniors tournament featuring players aged 40-plus. I’m talking about a chance to see superstars from yesteryear such as Dalglish, Keegan, Platini, Maradona and others who are nearer to my age group. Restrict the tournament to 16 nations with the hosts being countries unlikely to ever stage the big events such as Norway/Denmark, Wales/Ireland, Canada, Cuba. All profits to charity, a boost to local economies and a chance to travel the world with a purpose. Someone hear my plea!
Robert Marshall, Cambuslang
Further to the correspondence about the Gott Mit Uns slogan on German supporters’ denim jackets (Letters, WSC 270), I can share this account from the front line of the Somme in December 1917. During an hour or so of Christmas-style armistice, the German soldiers exchanged cigarettes and pleasantries with their British counterparts at the barbed wire, before returning to their trenches to start firing again. Just before hostilities recommenced the Germans held up a banner reading Gott Mit Uns (God is with us) to commemorate the moment of peace shared between the ordinary footsoldiers. Two minutes passed before a banner was produced on the British side – “We got mittens too”. A poignant moment forever lost to the comedy impulse. Not relevant, but true.
Ben Williams, Camberley
Enlightening article about live television subtitles by Csaba Abrahall (WSC 270) which explained some of the wonderful gaffes generated by this amazingly difficult art. I only ever use subtitles when in the gym and was intrigued when, during the cricket IPL, the man of the match had a choice of prize between a moat or a bike. I’d have taken the moat every time but, actually, it was a motorbike they won, which was a bit of an anti-climax. Pity they don’t use the signers that you can find late at night on some BBC programmes. They are brilliant but it’s the embarrassing bits that work best, like my personal highlight when, during a Louis Theroux programme, one had to sign “Take it up the tailpipe”. Consummate professional as he was, he did it effectively, only looking shocked after he realised what he’d signed.
Len Horridge, Leeds
The origins of West Bromwich Albion’s nickname is probably becoming a tedious discussion for many readers, but it still has some legs in it yet. JW Moverley (Letters, WSC 270) suggests that the Baggies dates from 1931. According to my grandfather, William Mynott, the origins of the name go back to the late-19th century. My great-grandfather claimed that, when WBA were a fledgling team, they frequently found themselves short of a player or two before a match. The solution was to recruit somebody from the local pit. The new recruit(s) would tie the bottom of their long mining trousers above their knees, leaving the rest of the fabric to flap around as they played. These baggy-trousered footballers became one of the Albion’s early signatures, hence the Baggies.
Joe Street, Sheffield
The following strikes me as being one of those apocryphal stories that in all likelihood pop up around the country featuring different players and clubs, but I thought I’d share it anyway since he seems to be in the news all the time these days. Alan Shearer visits a hospital in which a friend of a friend of mine works. It’s just before Christmas. It’s a children’s ward and after saying hello and handing out gifts to various sick tots one of the doctors asks if Shearer might come and say a few words to a boy who has been in a coma for several months. “We thought maybe if you talked to him it might get some response,” the doctor says. Shearer duly goes to the boy’s bedside and takes his hand. “Hello son,” he says, “I don’t know if you can hear me, but it’s Alan Shearer speaking.” Immediately the Geordie legend says these words the boy’s eyes pop open and his lips begin to tremble. “F-f-f-f,” he stammers. “F-f-f-f... fuck off you big twat.” He’s a Sunderland fan.
Chris Front, Redcar
Since he featured as a Strange Case in WSC 270, Steve Marlet, unemployed for two seasons, has finally found a club. This is Aubervilliers FC, just promoted to CFA 2, the fifth level of French football, where players earn about €200 a week. Close to the Stade de France in Paris’s northern suburbs, Aubervilliers gets “crowds” of around 200 people. However the club is famous among football followers in the French capital. This is because of an incident in 2004 when a game against local rivals CS Meaux was called off before kick-off after players from both teams fought each other in the stadium car park. Steve Marlet signed a one-year contract on July 6.
Albert Ebask, Saint Denis, France
I believe there is an error in the article Changing Channel in WSC 270 when the author says: “It was public television that, beginning in 1976, gave English football its first real runout in the US: hour-long highlights gleaned from British TV and repackaged as All Star Soccer.” I clearly remember in the years prior to 1976 the broadcast, every Sunday afternoon, of an English First Division match, here in Los Angeles on our local PBS station KCET. The match was edited to fit into a one-hour advert-free time slot (the players trotted in and out at half-time in a flash). Rather than use the original UK commentary, voiceover commentary was provided by LA sports broadcaster Mario Machado. I remember clearly the banality of Mr Machado’s commentary, the way he talked down to his audience and felt he had to explain the most elementary aspects of the game. The English match was followed by a German match which oddly enough featured British presenters. In any case, in the early and mid 1970s English First Division matches were being seen weekly in the US (at least here in LA), not as highlights but as a single match edited to 60 minutes.
Richard Cook, California, USA
I must defend Simon Cotterill against Kazutaka Watanabe’s criticism of his article about oversized stadiums in Japan, (Letters, WSC 270). There is no doubt that both Urawa and Niigata are the two best- supported clubs in Japan but 63,700 and 42,300 capacity stadiums are rarely filled. Last season alone, Urawa didn’t once get 60,000 while Niigata had over 40,000 only twice. For Urawa, where I have had a season ticket for 17 years, this is despite being by far the most popular team in Japan, based in a city right next to Tokyo with a population of 12 million. And the ticket prices start at a mere £12. I must cast doubt on Kazutaka Watanabe’s view that Japanese crowds understand the game more now and that the local football culture is evolving. At Yokohama’s 70,000 capacity Nissan stadium, which is only half filled even for the visit of Urawa, we were horrified to see a giant TV screen displaying messages, such as “That was offside” every time a linesman’s flag was raised. The media refer to Urawa fans as the most fanatical, but what they do is to keep jumping and singing almost non-stop regardless of the action on the pitch. Not surprisingly, I haven’t heard a single funny chant in the last 14 years or so. I couldn’t help agreeing, therefore, when Sydney FC fans chanted “You’re only singing Karaoke” at the travelling Urawa fans at an Asia Champions League game in Sydney in 2007. I lay the blame on Japanese media who have ignored the J-League in preference to constant stories about David Beckham and Ronaldo. I hear and read lots of negative comments about the deteriorating atmosphere at football grounds in the UK, but as a devoted West Ham fan who travels thousands of miles every year to step inside Upton Park, I feel that you still are the lucky ones. I am more than happy to swap my Urawa season ticket with Darron Kirkby’s at Upton Park (Mixed Emotions , WSC 269). There I can enjoy watching my beloved West Ham while increasing my vocabulary of swear words thanks to the man behind.
Atsushi Kamiyama, Tokorozawa, Japan
From WSC 271 September 2009