(AOF’s Vic Bondi, resisting the urge to have lawyers contact a prominent comedian/soccer enthusiast)
Still dominaning many of the UK headlines weeks after using the public airwaves to boast of fucking Manuel from “Fawlty Towers”‘s granddaughter, the Guardian’s Russell Brand — author of the newly released ‘Articles Of Faith’ (“unless you are a football obsessive, it’s scarcely comprehensible” sniffed Private Eye’s uncredited reviewer) reflects on England’s 2-1 exhibition victory in Berlin earlier this week. “The cliche of baiting the Germans persists – with me it bloody well does – but there exists now a degree of easy complicity as if our collective intelligence has processed the relationship and its troubles and sensibly contextualised them as mockable,” which is easy enough to claim after winning a match that doesn’t count.
The banner at the match which read “Thank you for the beautiful game” has received as much attention as the selection of Gabriel Agbonlahor and is a jarringly delicious symbol of the distinction between English and German football fans. It’s so polite and also correctly employs a very specific piece of nomenclature; it is a deliberate and charming attempt to communicate with us as a people. I can imagine no circumstances where English fans would manufacture an un-ironic banner to thank Germany – “Cheers for Fritz Lang, his films are wunderbar” – and if they did the German fans would have to hastily daub a bed sheet with the riposte: “Well actually Lang was Austrian but did belong to the cinematic expressionism movement that originated from Germany so thanks at least for acknowledging that. Besides, even if your praise was inaccurate it was clearly well-intentioned and for that we are truly grateful.” There surely can’t be duvets of that size lying about in Berlin unless Helmut Kohl remains as tubby as I recall him.
There was a banner present at Hampden Park too for the visit of Maradona’s Argentina. It read, “Thanks for 86” – you could argue that this was a general thank you for the way Diego lit up the World Cup that year but given that the banner was written by a Scot it is far more likely gratitude for Diego’s destruction of England in the quarter-final. This is a far more typical banner, amusing, vaguely acerbic and disparaging of a rival nation.
Perhaps we can use this old forum for self-expression for increasingly novel ends, banners could demand “world peace” or “more flirting” or revolution or personal objectives could be fulfilled – “I want a cuddle” or “I like my dog” – either way the reporting of the direct views of the people is a heartening development from the media, it’s certainly more constructive than whipping up a confectionary of disdain and dissatisfaction to sell papers – it might even make print journalism relevant for a few more years.