Lock up your daughters the English are coming
While Luke Young trained with his fellow England squad members in the shadow of the Sears Tower (once the tallest building in the world) the Chicago Tribune
today wrote an hilarious article giving warning to what to expect from the 5,000 travelling English fans expected to descend on the city this weekend.
Entitled How to embrace your inner hooligan
, this is how we are perceived:
1. THE WARDROBE
All the people running around with red crosses on their clothing Saturday at Soldier Field are not necessarily medics. The flag of St. George, England's national emblem since 1277, resembles the symbol for the international organization that cares for the sick and the emblem of choice for English fans afflicted with the football bug. The red crosses come out in full force whenever the national team plays - on flags, shirts, coats, backpacks, skin - "It's a flag-waving experience,"
said Rob Maul, a sports reporter for the London Times
The shirt of choice figures to be the red England road jersey, just one piece of clothing in what will look like an Umbro warehouse. The typical fan's costume? "A team jersey, with sneakers and jeans and probably a good number of people with their faces painted,"
predicted David Asquith, president of Umbro USA. "Soccer's very tribal in England."
2. THE SONGS
If watching soccer indeed compares to a religious experience for many English fans, you might say the event comes complete with hymns sung throughout the match. After a traditional opening rendition of "God Save The Queen,"
the impromptu concert in the stands that lasts throughout the game might take several different directions.It can turn patriotic: "England till I die, I'm England till I die, I know I am, I'm sure I am, I'm England till I die,"
is an old stand-by.
It can wax poetic, "Oh England the fans, the fans are calling, from the Yorkshire Dales to old London Town, red, white and blue, the colors we keep flying, oh, England, England, we love you so."
Or it can simply go for ribald laughs, specific for players on the national team. In a city that brought the world "The Super Bowl Shuffle,"
the complaints should be few.
3. THE INTENSITY
No Americans should be startled by boos that could follow the "Star Spangled Banner,"
Saturday any more than they should be by cheers after a goal. "That's just the way it is,"
Maul said. "Nothing personal. They're just passionate."
That is to say that fans at English football matches are such that an athlete such as Ron Artest (Basketball player banned after wading into the crowd to fight them!) might not be suspended for going into the stands during a game as much as pitied. As a writer once put it in the Daily Telegraph, "If manners maketh the man, many English football fans would remain locked in permanent puberty."
Conditions have improved, however, in the 20 years since visiting Liverpool fans attacked fans of the Italian team Juventus in Belgium, causing a wall to collapse and killing 39.
And since 1989 when hooligans (that will please Liverpool fans!) rioted at a game in Sheffield and left 96 dead. Still, most descriptions of a typical English football fan sounds like a rabid (Chicago) Bears fan on steroids.
4. THE PRE-GAME FARE
Somebody calling himself "BigSoccer,"
from Camden, England, on an English national team message board offered this food for thought on the American sporting tradition of tailgating. "Why the [expletive] does anyone have to pay [for parking] for the privilege of sitting around a car park with a bunch of fat Yank weirdoes in beards listening to country music and shouting things like "Woooooo-hooooooo!!!!!!"In England, most soccer stadiums sit too close to housing areas to have large parking lots, so they come up with an alternative to tailgating. "It's called a pub,"
Chicago Fire CEO/President John Guppy said.
5. THE KNOWLEDGE
Boos cascaded Soldier Field last July after Manchester United and Bayern Munich battled to a 0-0 tie. Of course they did. "In England, a draw is just as fascinating as a victory but Americans don't know anything about the game. They think, 'What's the point in having a draw?'"
English fans understand nuances often lost on American spectators, much the way a hit-and-run will excite a baseball purist but bore a Brit. Some English fans Saturday might rise to cheer soccer subtleties such as a heavy tackle or taking a corner kick while the Americans around them will look on, seeing a different game. "You always hear the bad thing about soccer is no scoring,"
Guppy said. "Well, a 3-2 game in soccer is like a 21-14 game in the NFL."
Guppy compared the extended buildup to scoring a goal to a "long courtship before you're married."
Funny eh? I will be back tomorrow or Sunday with my take on the English invasion of the Windy City