England 1, Paraguay 0

by The Floating Face

“Engaaaarrrrllllaaaaaannnnnd! We’re England till we die! Engaaaarleeeernd!”

Through the assembled crowd a small group of thoroughly inebriated football fans career wildly, beers held high and tattooed torsoes crisping in the midday sun. Riding aloft is their mascot for the day, an inflatable young lady with legs akimbo and arms flailing wildly. Her synthetic anatomy is ill-concealed by a football shirt, her mouth a fixed gape that we shall charitably assume is shouting in patriotic support.

“England all the waaaay!!”

The scene of their merry and mildly offensive conga-line is the grassy expanse of Parker’s Piece, temporary home to the BBC World Cup tour. At one end is a massive television screen that will show England’s opening match against Paraguay, and in their thousands the residents of Cambridge have gathered, as if in some ancient ritual of worship. Many arrived early with picnics, booking prime spots close to the front. Others shun food entirely and seem intent only to drink their body weight before the first ball is kicked.

Then there are those who strike a happy medium, and thus can Fyse be found, cold beer in one hand and a sandwich in the other. He and his friends make conversation full of insightful analysis and intelligent commentary on ideal tactics. Fyse explains at length the advantage of deploying a midfielder in a holding role, his lecture interrupted only briefly by the passing of the flailing inflatable, whose splayed legs catch him round the back of the head. He tuts in a disapproving manner, and returns to his pontification.

The carnival atmosphere builds as kick-off approaches, and everyone shares that brand of absurd over-optimism unique to football fans before a big tournament. How could we possibly lose? After all, we’ve clearly got the best team in the world. We’re bound to score at least three goals every game, if not four. “Crouchy’s a dead cert for the Golden Boot!”, a particularly deluded gentlemen is heard to shout. Two o’clock arrives, and the crowd shows glorious disregard for tune or rhythm as they join singing the national anthem. Then, after hours developing heat stroke in the baking sun, the match is finally underway.

The sublime spectacle that is football unfolds for the delectation of the viewing public. Children sit on father’s shoulders, waving their little flags and cheering their favourite player. A hairy student near the front produces what looks like a wooden hunting horn, the sound of which exhorts the crowd to yet greater hysteria. The now-shirtless pneumatic female bobs above the crowd to the rhythm of chants whose vulgarity is matched only by their inventiveness. Amid the uncouth chaos, Fyse is of course an island of intellectual calm as he appraises the subtle cut and thrust of the match, continuing to eat and drink in good measure. Suddenly, when the match is but a few minutes old, there is a scramble in the Paraguay area and somehow the ball ends up in the net. The crowd erupts, and Fyse sprays a mouthful of pork pie as he leaps to his feet.

“Yeeeaaaaahhhhh! Come on Englaaaand!!”