Siberian Soapbox

One advantage of having a soapbox is that I’m usually right. Ahem. This week though, I am actually going to legally prove* that my target should be locked away forever. No maybes, no questions whatsoever. This is in the name of children being mentally scarred, not to mention many adults, so think of this as a public service.

*not even remotely linked to any legal process whatsoever.

GROWN. MEN. WEARING. REPLICA. SHIRTS.

Seriously, think back and tell me one time you recall seeing anyone over 35 looking good in a football top? Ha ha Andrea Pirlo, yes ok, but that man could make a bin bag look cool. That’s just not fighting fair. I’m talking about the slobs whom life has given up on, beer guts pouring over their belts and hair receding faster than Jorge Mendes’ hand diving into a transfer fee. The loutish bean bags who think shouting monosyllabic utterances louder makes them somehow more intelligible to foreigners.

There are very few exceptions to this rule; playing five a side is acceptable, for example. Erm, that’s about it actually. What I cannot fathom is why men of a certain age and waistband would want to look like oversized shrink-wrapped sausage rolls.

The prosecution will proceed, your honour. Exhibit A: my local pub during the 2010 World Cup. The function room was rammed as the big screen flickered the dramatic scenes of Lampard’s goal that never was. The injustice of the moment was suitably received with choice vocabulary and angry swigs of Boddington’s – none of that softy southerner warm cat-piss nonsense. And then, rearing his fucking ugly misshapen nonce in front of the screen, Barry – let’s just call him that – stood up in his Three Lions’ shirt and bellowed that godawful mantra of all middle-aged pissed losers: “IN-GUR-LUND, IN-GUR-LUND, IN-GUR-LUND!”.

It was bad enough to be denied by a VAR-less howler from the officials (down boy, now’s not the time or place for THAT discussion…), but to have the angry grief shattered and sullied by some moronic twat extracted the Michael. Of course, the back of the shirt was “hilariously” printed:

PROUD

2

BE ENGLISH

In case nobody had noticed his freakishly engorged stomach and surrounding body parts, he jabbed his chubby thumbs over his shoulders like a goalscorer celebrating to point out his witty lettering. The fact that Emile Heskey had more international goals than Barry had teeth just added to the ridiculous scene developing.

Now for a complete change of scene. Exhibit B: It is a picturesque summer’s day in a quaint Midlands neighbourhood, with sun dripping through the swishing leaves. A classic bicycle rattles gently along the path as a pair of spindly legs push the bespectacled rider forward. It isn’t a season for trousers or long sleeves. The problem is, the short sleeves belong to an electric yellow acrylic monstrosity advertising some Chinese telecommunications company, and shroud the arms of a senior teacher.

My old house master at school was a phenomenal sportsman in his day who played England schoolboy cricket, and for all I know was a dab hand at football too. After a serious knee operation as a late teenager, he hadn’t been able to play anything at a serious level. He was also a highly intelligent man with immaculate organisational skills. Why then would he feel the need to smother himself in garbage like his young son? It was hilarious to watch at the time, but in hindsight was quite depressing.

In their own ways, both exhibits so far have been harmless. Idiotic in their own ways, but no threat to society. Well, now I present to the jury exhibit C: Sergey. No, that’s not his real name again, but if you saw him, you’d understand why I didn’t ask. I have spent an inordinate amount of time in Russian airports recently on endless business trips, as thousands of people will this summer, and for the most part it has passed uneventfully. On the way to Volgograd, however, Sergey waddled up to the boarding gate with his CSKA Moscow shirt and began to bellow aggressively at the poor airline steward.

This guy was huge. Not in the MMA/wrestling sense, but in sheer gut size. I swear his digestive system had created a new shirt size, and his demeanour seemed to fit the appearance. My prayers not to be sat next to him on the plane were answered, but only just; the seat in front of me was swallowed by his flab instead, along with what remained of my crushed kneecaps.

You can argue that the football shirt itself had nothing to do with his character or manners. I beg to differ though. Once the reconstituted plastic has stretched over a middle-aged man’s frame, he invariably develops a mangled personality that ranges from embarrassing to slobbish through to aggressive thug.

I can remember when I went to Old Trafford to get my first proper United shirt. The excitement of having to go to the ground itself – forget chain stores selling kits in those days, boys and girls – and get the name printed on the back… Ah, the whole day was an event. I would wear it in the park or playground, stick the collar up, and strut like Cantona himself. The innocence has been replaced with a horde of pathetic fat slobs. Love modern football, don’t you?…