By Rod de Lisle
So Euro stuff is all over the news. Yes, the footie, but also this Brexit thingie. Here in New Zealand we are rather removed from the whole side show but it seems that roughly 53% of the good people of the UK -feat. England- are deciding to take their ball and go home, or rather, stay home, ‘cos the big boys are picking on them by doing stuff like always sending them more people and that.
I personally can’t see why a few more folk wouldn’t be welcomed with open arms, especially as they don’t get too many Aussies up that way.
Some of those new arrivals are really quite popular in the UK. Take Ngolo Kante and Christian Fuchs. I can personally vouch that in Leicester these two football-kicking imports now have the proverbial keys to the city and will never have to buy a beer, Brit brewed of course, there again. In fact I understate it. They could probably march into any Leicester car dealership, select a new motor and drive off sedately without a coin changing hands or take their choice of any piece of prime Leicestershire real estate (if there is such a thing) at a heavily discounted rate.
Anyway, one outcome of the Euro divorce is that the Brits might soon remember there is still a Commonwealth and appreciate some legs of lamb and butter being tucked into the luggage of kiwis heading to Blighty in the next year or so. Always a silver lining, there is.
The other, and more interesting, Euro thing going on is the off-season footie kick-around currently underway in France. Like the old pre-season Altex Cup that the Tokoroa Football club used to put on, it attracts a hodgepodge of entries from the big guys (Germans and France etc) and the small fry (Faroe Island and Iceland etc).
The wee Faroe Islands failed to make it through to the actual French finals bit, understandably, as their minuscule 50,000 population makes it hard to find a team each Saturday, let alone run a footie league. Despite this their Fifa ranking of 89 is streets ahead of New Zealand at (cough) 147.
In comparison, Iceland is a veritable mass of humanity with a population of 331,000 (virtually identical to that of the city of Leicester). My teenage daughter once asked why a country is called “In Case of Emergency-land” which both impressed (that my mobile phone safety training had sunk in) and disappointed me. Modern kids eh? No geography knowledge. Anyway Iceland is up at a rather surprising 34 in the Fifa rankings. 34?
That must make the English (population 55 million) a tiny bit nervous before their last 16 match-up this week against the men from the land of ice, this despite their lofty Fifa spot of 11th.
There’s also the question of whether the English team and legions of fans will have the necessary post-Brexit paperwork to actually get back into the UK after their inevitable penalty shootout loss, whatever round that may be. It will be sorted though. Jilted Euro-staying nations are lined up to kick old lady Engerland (and the Welshers and the Northern Irish) and fans back across the channel. And icy foes Iceland are first on this list to administer the coup de grace.
Worried, I flew out to France to see Roy Hodgson who told me he was also worried: that his next opponents would field legendary Bjork in central midfield. I told him don’t worry I’d seen the eccentric songstress perform recently and on that day she was fairly quiet, oh so quiet.
I decided to take over proceedings.
“Hodgson” I said “Your England are gonna lose and upset the whole nation anyway so if they can have Bjork in their line-up, let’s turf out Rooney and the whole team, yep, even Saint Vardy and replace them with ladies. I’ll take over and select a bunch of lady singers, only English ones of course, to represent your lot. In fact I come prepared.
I think the following team should be much more entertaining than the blokes and their dulcet tones will take away the sting of losing. In fact (I ad-libbed desperately) I’ve spoken to them all to ensure availability and even had a quick training session.”
I showed Hodgson a grimy envelope with my list scrawled on it.
Rod’s English lady-singer based team to take on Iceland:
GK. Alison Moyet (a natural pick for a football team as her name rhymes with Poyet)
LB. Julie Andrews, (veteran left back who had an early career in Austria before moving to London)
CB. Marianne Faithful (tough as old boots at the back and already in Paris awaiting a call up)
CB. Joss Stone (like her Everton playing brother, a centre back).
RB. Posh Spice (not sure about her ability, but seems to know a little about football, negotiating a six figure salary in 2 minutes flat)
MF. Vera Lynn (England’s favourite and unlike two of my subs, she is actually still alive – but not expected to last the whole 90 minutes)
MF. Christine McVie (and captain, a veteran but a dependable performer)
MF. Sporty Spice (the Sporty bit is a give-away. Unlike Posh she can actually kick a ball – and sing-)
MF. Kate Bush (coaches favourite despite being out a little of fashion)
STR. Gabrielle (got to be good at soccer as she has a one-word name like a Brazilian footballer).
STR. Vivienne Westwood (ex punk singer from the Slits and hard as nails. Her Vardy-esque speed gets her in ahead of Shaw)
MF. Petula Clark (I know a place for her. On the bench but expected to replace Lynn at half time).
STR. Sandie Shaw (Normally a first choice striker but wouldn’t put her boots on for some reason?)
GK. Adele (Another Brazilian type moniker but doesn’t have a football name like Moyet)
STR. Amy Winehouse (Strangely lacklustre and immoveable at training).
CB. Cilla Black (“She is Cilla Black and she plays at Centre Back” but like Winehouse, a bit too dead to make the actual playing 11)
CB. David Walliams (he turned up dressed as a lady, but I suspect she isn’t : not worth risking)
Hogson didn’t seem overly excited about my plans but I think he was secretly impressed, this despite him calling security to turf me out.
I left him (translation: was dragged away) with the exhortation to please, please pull some strings to make sure that, despite the Brexit, there is no way Leicester have to give back Fuchs and Kante.
[Rod de Lisle is first team manager of Hamilton Wanderers Football Club]
Categories: English/UK Football
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/