Today I went to the dry cleaners’. There was a guy being served at the counter ahead of me.
“Did you catch the match last night?” he asked the shopkeeper.
The shopkeeper, counting up the man’s shirts, said nothing.
There were only the three of us in there. “Quite disappointing,” I said, to fill the silence.
“Yeah, it was, wasn’t it?” said the man, turning to me.
Last night, England played Russia in one of the opening matches of the Euro 2016 football championship. It had looked like an England victory until — literally — the very last minute, when the Russians scored a goal in extra time and ended the game in a 1–1 tie.
But it turned out that wasn’t what the man was talking about.
“Yeah, the way they went at that poor guy,” he said. “It’s not on, is it?”
Ah, he wanted to talk about the violence, I realized. English and RUssian fans had turned Marseille into a bottle-strewn war zone, and Russian fans had started a ruckus in the stadium after their goal.
I was wrong again.
“They’re running around the towns there, in France, picking on the England supporters,” said the man. “All sober they are! And they get together in groups, twenty or thirty of them, and pick on one Englishman! Sober!”
The fact that the Russians were doing this while sober seemed to really irk him. He seemed to find it very unfair. Presumably the English, tottering around, sunburnt and brimming over with Kronenbourg, were thus at a disadvantage.
The man barrelled on with a jovial smile: “Well, that’s the eastern Europeans for you. That’s why my mum says she’s voting for Brexit!”
I could think of nothing to say.