Saturday, 12 June 2010

England, football, and a childhood memory

Well friends, Gail is taking over my blog today, to participate in the 2010 Soccer World Cup 'Unity in Diversity' celebration. I must warn you now that there's lots about football (soccer to my American pals of course) and England (a country I haven't yet visited) and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, NADA, ZILCH ABOUT DOGS!

Over to you Gail (just this once).

I suspect that I am almost alone amongst the dog blogging 'mums' in having a long standing interest in football, as I was brought up in a fairly sports mad family in the English Midlands and as a teenager wasted many a Saturday afternoon standing on the terraces at the City Ground watching Nottingham Forest.....

The first football game I explicitly remember was the 1966 World Cup Final. I was seven years old and must have already seen other games as by then I was certainly familiar with the rules. My family were on holiday on the Isle of Wight (a small island off the south coast of England) at the time. Mid afternoon, we were having fun at the beach when we remembered the game was on. My older brother abandoned a half-built sandcastle, my mother put away the binoculars through which she had been watching the transatlantic passenger liners cruise past, I licked up the last of my sixpenny (pre-decimal) ice lolly, Dad, who had been enjoying his customary swim far out to sea, hastily returned to shore, and we all headed back to the guest house, to find the other holidaying families in the lounge, gathered around the black and white TV.

The game, England versus West Germany, was already in progress. What's the score, my brother asked. Most of the faces were glum but a Scottish lad called out, in unmistakably gloating tones, 'one-nil to Germany'. I remember this moment so clearly, not so much for the score, but because of my innocent seven year old's shock that a fellow British citizen should be pleased England were losing. Of course England went on to a famous 4-2 victory, but it is sad that my strongest memory of the day is my first ever encounter with the anti-English prejudice that still lingers in some quarters in what is now my adopted home of Scotland.

It is interesting to look at a photo of the victorious 1966 England players

and compare it to a picture of the team taken earlier this year before an England game.
So much has changed in this country in the last 44 years.

Few English families now spend their two-week summer holidays swimming and building sandcastles on our chilly beaches, and those transatlantic liners have long since been replaced by jumbo jets. Schoolchildren are no longer tortured with complicated sums involving pounds, shillings and pence. Does anyone still buy a 'black and white' TV licence?

And we truly are, these days, like South Africa, a 'rainbow' nation (and not just because of the weather...)

Finally, I leave you with this video clip I found on Youtube, because I think it shows, more clearly than my words can express, the excitement and euphoria that football can generate. It's 2008. Liverpool, one of our top club sides, famous for their passionate supporters, are about to play at home in the Champions' League and the entire Anfield stadium is resonating to an ecstatic rendering of the 'Merseyside Anthem'. The picture quality's not great but the atmosphere is electric. Turn up the volume and imagine you're there...


  1. You will never believe this but we were also staying in a hotel on the IoW during the week of the finals. How spooky is that ! I was 11 at the time and remember very clearly that my elder brothers, terribly sophisticated and 'cool', were allowed to have a celebratory glass of champagne. I got a coke.An early lesson in age diferentiated unfairness.
    Do you think that people still go to the IoW and layer sand inside glass bottles ? What was it all about?

  2. Well we don't understand football at all!
    Our Dad enjoys watching it but our mum thinks it is the most boring game on earth - sorry!
    We enjoyed Gail's childhood memories and our mum loves the Isle of Wight.
    She would have stayed on the beach and enjoyed her ice cream but we appreciate that for many it is a very exciting time.
    In that we celebrate diversity!
    love and kisses
    Martha and Bailey xxxx

  3. We're a country that plays soccer every weekend in every town. But, as a rule doesn't follow the game professionally. However, when it became a possibility that Oz could win, there was much more interest. Australians love sport, so there is much interest now.

    XXXOOO Daisy, Kendra & Bella

  4. Arrrrrooooooo!
    A DRAW!!!
    woot woot - arrrrrrooooooo!!!!
    And no one thought the USA had a snowballs chance in...well...someplace hotter'n Floriduh fer sure!!!
    It wasn't pretty, but pretty don't count cept in dog shows and beauty's what's on the score board!


    Bonnie - pulling fer the men in black!

  5. Berti
    I am not a sportsy girl but the guys in my family like all the sports and they watch them all the time. I do catch some here and there.


  6. Could not get your video to work despite your encouragement!

    My only childhood memories of sports were major league baseball, and my Dad having one ball game on the B&W TV, and one on the radio at the same time. You couldn't even think in our house!

    I was glad for the US to have tied with England today, though!

    Some new pix of Bouncing Bertie soon?


    Jo and Stella

  7. cool story and pictures.We not big on soccer balls. We would prefer to play with our tiny tennis ball. But the humans are watching the stuff on TV. Have fun
    Benny & Lily

  8. Hi there Gail
    I thoroughly enjoyed your post (although I too couldn't get the vid to work...will try again later)
    But your reflection of your first encounters with the dynamics of 'disunity' will echo those of many of us.
    I loved hearing your personal account. I also thoroughly enjoyed the game last night. It was very strange NOT wanting either side to win, but to cheer the teams of my friends from both England and USA along.
    Thank you too for participating in "UNITY IN DIVERSITY"! You have done a wonderful job!
    Sending lotsapats to Bertie and also to wish you much enjoyment in the matches still to come.
    With love

  9. Yes, times certainly have changed. I've got a couple of years on you in age; however, I, too, recall summers at the lake, picnics, family outings, neighbors stopping by for lemonade or ice tea in the summer. A time gone by that I fear we will never see again.

    Around my home it was baseball (mother)and boxing (father) that took center stage. As for soccer, I am happy that we are 1-1. Let's see what the next game brings☺

  10. Bertie, we needed to come back to tell you that we are NOT upset about your goalie's slip yesterday, BOL! WOO-HOO!

  11. Gail,

    We enjoyed your memories!! We're baseball fanatics -- but we've gotten caught up in the FIFA fever and are enjoying everyone's perspectives!

    We liked that the game was a tie. We find ourselves with mixed emotions when it comes to certain USA teams...

    Wirey love,

    Jake and Just Harry

  12. I had never attended a soccer game till my niece and nephew started playing. I am a big hockey fan, but enjoy a good soccer match or baseball game, as long as I don't have to play.

  13. Hello Bertie,

    Nice to meet you, I heard about you via Flat Jake and Flat Just Harry. They came to Vancouver and we had a great time with them and their pawrents!! Just wanted to say HI!

    Enjoy the World Cup, I've been extremely neglected due to mum being fixated to our TV....

    Love nibbles,
    Miss Sunshade

  14. NOW we don't feel like we've missed so much. Great video!

    Jake and Fergs (one of whom loves to chase balls)