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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Franck Ribéry

No man w­­­ith such scars on his face deserves to suffer ever again, but Franck Ribéry fell in the 12th minute of the game and was carted off on a stretcher. After that, I watched in silence. I ate a bag of potato chips on my own, and at each Italian goal some of it came back up into my mouth as a cheesy soup. It is not because I am part French on my mother’s side. It is not because – as Julien says – there are only two truly European countries, England and France, and because England did not even qualify and France is now out, this is no longer a European cup. No, it is much simpler than all of that. Simply, I cannot stand – repeat – CANNOT STAND the Italian team. I loathe them, I detest, hate, despise... I…I… give me synonyms…language cannot translate the iron ball in my gut and the soup of chips in my mouth. It is a dangerous thought. It is with such thoughts that the Serbs and Bosnians fell out, put knifes to each others throats and called NATO bombers upon themselves. It is irrational… I accept that. And I accept that I have been harsh on Italians before, maybe unduly – I accept that they have made some worthy contributions: the tortellini has an interesting shape and indeed feels funny on the tongue; and the Olivetti typewriter was once a useful and widely used machine. All of this I accept, but in international football they are rodents, and they have now reached round two of Euro 2008, not gloriously like the Dutch lions, not courageously like the great checkered Croats, but through the cracks, with their front teeth, and their bellies to the ground where they play victim and plead for penalties. I hate, detest, loathe despise…. oh, and to make matters worse, I’ve got a live one in my house now. Brendan has suddenly come out as an Italian – his great great great grandfather, he claims – and he has been wearing his Matterazzi shirt at almost every game. You are just stupeed littul provocateur, Julian said to him the other night. His response: Bite me! What do you do? And what do you do when a guy who has seen no more football matches than there are fingers on his hands, who can’t tell the Czechs from the Swedes, when this guy fancies himself the expert and insists that the offside rule doesn’t count in extra time. What do you do? I said to him, when I need to know how to work out my triceps I’ll come to you, IN THE MEANTIME, do not volunteer any information. EVER! He threatened a head-butt and laughed like a fool. I nearly punched him because I am in a state of heightened alert. I watch every game. My phone is switched off – Goni hasn’t heard from me in over a week – and I am beginning to resort to rituals: I dumped two bags of macaroni, yesterday, and flushed a pot of pesto down the toilet, perfectly good pesto. And for the first time in a long long time, I prayed. I said, dear God, please dear God give SPAIN the strength to eradicate from this tournament, and possibly for good, the metrosexual, penalty-craving crawlers that have befouled the beautiful game.