While Canadians follow every move of their favourite hockey team, Europeans are fanatic about soccer. Soccer supporters are a breed apart and can get into heated arguments about their home team.
Although not all English people attend games or even watch it on television, soccer is still a big part of so many lives. When I was a little girl everything came to a stop on Saturday afternoon at 5.00pm. This was when the results of all the day’s matches were read out and England ground to a halt to check their “Pools” results.
My mom and grandma were strictly against gambling, along with drink it had supposedly brought ruin to many families however there they sat, pencils poised, in front of the television to check their pools results. Woe betide anyone who spoke during this crucial time.
Almost everyone in England used to ‘do the pools’ this was a list of all the games to be played on Saturday. The idea was to fill in so many teams and guessing if they would win, lose or have a tie game. The chances of a small win were quite good but everyone was hoping for the big pay off. As a child, if I asked for something it was always to be bought when mom or gran ‘won the pools’. More often than not the win would just about cover the entry fee, but everyone lived in hope of making it big.
Soccer, of football as it was always called was played in almost every town. As a teenager I went to two or three matches just to be with ‘the crowd’ but never really enjoyed it. There were no seats, it would be cold and windy and as my friends and I would be scantily dressed, we just about froze to death. Usually the young men would be too wrapped up in the game to chat us up, so we stopped going.
In later years there was a big disaster when a huge crowd surged forward and people were trampled to death, after this event seats were installed to prevent this tragedy from happening again.
There used to be one end of the ground reserved for “dads and lads” this was specially for families and here children could learn to enjoy the game without listening to the profanities that were often banded about in other parts of the crowd.
Sadly this image changed over time. The good natured banter and trash talk developed into serious challenges between fans, many younger men went for the sole purpose of causing trouble and starting a fight. At the end of each game the huge crowd would surge out of the grounds and smash anything they came across. Shop windows would be smashed and anything not nailed down would be thrown. Crowding onto the roads and stopping traffic, many would climb onto cars and jump from one to another. This must have been terrifying to the passengers inside but the police seemed helpless to handle such a huge mob.
One of the houses Dave and I lived in was on the same road that the local club grounds were located. We lived about four miles away but part of this unruly mob would come in our direction and cause trouble. By the time they reach our home, many of them had dropped out to go in different directions but the ones remaining were still fired up. Our house had a long, narrow garden going down to the road and had a wrought iron gate opening onto the sidewalk. If we didn’t remove the gate, from its hinges, prior to the match ending the gate would be taken off and carried away, to be dumped elsewhere.
Sadly, for some people, the game became just a place to go and look for a fight. Youths would wear steel toed boots so they could kick one another and cause injury. A few years after we had moved to Canada we went back for a visit. One day we were on a bus that went past the soccer grounds, we were absolutely amazed to see an enormous pile of boots and shoes heaped up in the car park.
There must have been hundreds of pairs in the heap. Apparently Bolton’s club had made the rule that no boots were allowed on the grounds, so people took them off and went in their socks! Can you imagine the chaos after the match with hundreds of people looking for their own? The mind boggles however it stopped the kicking!
Of course there are millions of genuine fans, worldwide, it is just a shame that the morons of this world have to spoil anything that can be enjoyed by others.
The simple soccer games of our youth are long gone, now players demand unbelievable amounts of money that the entrance fees to games is such an expense. The old brown leather boots have been replaced by pink or other colourful footwear, years ago pink boots would have caused instant mass hysteria and the player would be jeered off the field. However Europe still loves it’s soccer and I’m sure many games are rehashed by the fans over their pint at their local pub.
On any English street corner you will still find three or four boys kicking a soccer ball about. While this joy for the game lasts there will always be soccer.