Scott Manley Hadley Does Sports Writing

During the 2018 Soccer Russia Men’s World Cup, I was thrice asked to write some sports-related copy. What I churned out instead ended up being a collection of facts about such varied topics as commercial shipping and nasty pandemics. READ ON:

PART ONE: BELGIUM

Football. Soccer. Footie. The Game. Fußball. Fútbol. Sport.

Whatever you call it, it’s ON. In Russia, right now. The World Cup is happening and London is going wild with that Vindaloo, that Three Lions on a Shirt, fever. CAN YOU TASTE THE FOOTBALL???

England fans and players alike are riding high on a wave of sporty euphoria after securing a MASSIVE 6–1 victory over the top footballers of the tiny nation of Panama, a country most famous for hats and a canal. 11,000 oceangoing vessels may pass through you every year, Panama, but so too did SIX shots from the booties of The Three Lions, and in the World Cup, it’s the GOALS that count.

So, this Thursday, head down to [venue redacted] to watch all your favourite contemporary England football players — including that one your mum fancies — get back “on the ball” as they try to shoot, one-two, nutmeg, tackle and pass their way to victory against the FOOTIE COLOSSUS that is BELGIUM. Belgium may be home to Antwerp, one of Europe’s largest container ports — which processed a WHOPPING 138 million tons of cargo in 2017 — but, as stated above, in the WORLD CUP the only thing that matters is hoofing that ball into the “back of the net”.

Can ENGLAND, the Land of Hope and Glory, of Shakespeare, of the industrial revolution, of Dyson, of Branson, of Sugar, beat BELGIUM, the land of chocolate and beer, of Tintin, of Poirot, of Bruges? Hopefully yes, because we’ve had “forty years of hurt” (plus however much time has passed since that song was released) and it’s time for football to come home, like an errant dog or a neglectful spouse: if football doesn’t come home soon, it must be because it doesn’t love us. And you do love us, don’t you, football?

Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee an English victory because unlike Game of Thrones (but like Love Island) the WORLD CUP is unscripted. What we can guarantee, though, is a selection of crazy good deals to keep your spirits up as Harry Kane and his ten best friends peacefully battle the Belgians, one of the few countries the UK has never been at war with.

KICK OFF IS AT 7PM BUT LATECOMERS WILL BE ADMITTED.

As a special football treat, here is the 2010 World Cup song recorded by Neil Morrissey, from Bob the Builder and Men Behaving Badly fame. It’s a corker. See you soon.


PART TWO: CROATIA

Football.

For some, it’s a religion; for others, it’s a way of life. There are even people who use football to make a living (professional footballers, administrative staff at professional football clubs, football commentators, for example), but this Summer there’s pretty much no one left in England (and the less arrogant bits of Scotland and Wales) who isn’t infected with terminal football fever. We know a real doctor, and he confirms that this is the most infectious UK outbreak since the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic (#deathtoll: 75 million worldwide, ouch!). How do you know if you’ve got Football Fever? The symptoms are GOALS GOALS GOALS. And flaky skin.

The World Cup is in sunny Russia (home of the infamous Plague of 1771 (#deathtoll: >50,000)), waiting for England to claim it, those “jewels remain still gleaming”. Yes, we know those aren’t technically the lyrics, but it’s what everyone thinks they are and they’re more beautiful. Football is, after all, THE BEAUTIFUL GAME.

We’re all experts on football now. We all know how many lions are on a shirt (three), and we all love and respect one lion in a waistcoat: plucky Gareth Southgate. This ugly man (no offence) was last seen ruining everyone’s fun in an earlier international footballing fixture, so he has something to prove, and he seems to be proving it. There’s a lesson for us all, here: bully the kind of man who voluntarily wears waistcoats enough, and he will give a better workplace performance.

Kane and his pals smashed goals past the Swedes and we celebrated by rioting in IKEA; we’ve had people smashing ambulances in London Bridge and fans throwing up in the streets. Football is coming home, and we’re making sure the country’s a beautiful party playground for it when it does. Would Football want to rock up home and find everything neat and tidy? No, because when Football comes home, things go off. Football would rather come home to a housefire than an empty bed, you get me? Football wants to arrive at a massive party where EVERYONE is having the time of their lives and it’s at Football’s house. And the party is for Football.

Can Gareth “Gazza” Southgate and his employees take England all the way to victory? Well, you can’t go all the way without having a semi at some point, so on Wednesday at 1900 it’s time for England to take on Croatia, a team that could be referred to as “the Boys from the Balkans” (site of the Great Plague of 1738 (#deathtoll: also >50,000)).

We’ll be screening the game on a big screen and offering our football fever dream offers throughout the match.

So, get your flags waving, get your blue shirt and dark waistcoat on, get your knees bending, fists pumping (in the air, not at people), get chanting something to the tune of a different song, laugh along with Gary Linneker and son as they “banter” on social media and just SPORT SPORT SPORT. The only medicine for FOOTBALL FEVER… is more football.

KICK OFF IS AT 7PM BUT LATECOMERS WILL BE ADMITTED.

Please note we do not guarantee a victory for the England team, but we’ll pull as many strings as we can. (Unfortunately that’s zero). Also, we decided “we’re gonna give you a semi” was too inappropriate a phrase to include. Thank us later.

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.


PART THREE: THE WORLD CUP FINAL (PRE-EMPTIVE)

You say foot, I say ball:

Foot! BALL!

Foot! BALL!

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

In case you didn’t know it, the football World Cup is on at the moment and — spoiler alert — England are totally gonna win, maybe. Possibly, maybe, there’s no guarantee, but it’s happening.

You know how normally the England football team are totally like Hufflepuff, trying their best but their best is — no offence — bad? All of a sudden — thanks to the help of Gareth Southgate (officially “England’s most attractive ugly man”) — the lads have pulled things back and now they’re the bloody Gryffindors, the Starks, the Jedi, the Bagginses, the Famous Five plus The Secret Seven (one of those is a dog so that works out as EXACTLY the right amount of people for a football team). It turns out that Gareth Southgate wasn’t a bumbling loser doomed to infamy for not being able to do his job in the ’90s, and instead he had a much more satisfying, redemptive, narrative arc: he has risen like a phoenix, like Gandalf, like Jesus the Christ himself.

Jesus or Gareth Southgate???

Tonight, today, pretty soon, up on a big screen, we’ve got England (area: 130,279 km²) battling Croatia (a measly 56,594 km²). England’s victory in the semi-finals is all but guaranteed, at least according to everyone we’ve been speaking to. If football wasn’t coming home, then why would we have spent the last few weeks saying “it’s coming home” like totally all the time, often as a response to someone saying “it’s coming home”? We’re not fools, and neither is Football, who knows that it would be letting itself down if it didn’t come home.

So, because England will be treating tonight’s match like the dull formality it is, it’s probably time to start thinking about what you’ll be doing for the final on Sunday. No one fantasises about a semi. But oooooooooh, have we fantasised about going all the way!!!

England fans goin wild at The World Cup Final which they’re gonna win

We’re gonna host an absolutely mega funky fun party party daytime party daytime party event! (did I write party enough?).

Come and see the World Cup Final, where plucky underdogs England or (less plucky but more underdog) Croatia (lol, it’ll be England) will test their footballing prowess against the soccer titan that is the ancient nation of France (gulp: 551,695 km²). If it’s Croatia — which it probably won’t be — then we’ll be cheering them on, because the Dalmatian Coast is lovely and because we’re English we don’t like the French.

Let’s make the 2018 World Cup Final the French’s NEW Waterloo (Waternew?), let’s make Three Lions the new 1812 Overture, let’s kick Nelson off the top of his column and stick Gareth Southgate up there instead (the real one, like David Blaine did).

David Blaine, the spirt of American magic

We’ll be open from 1pm, through until late late late late (because if we win, it’ll be a mad one and if we lose… errr… it’ll be a mad one). Come and chant, come and sing, come and dance and celebrate and commiserate (if you’re French lol), because this is 1966 for the EasyJet generation. We’ll think it’s all over, but not until it actually is, because people are cleverer now than they were in history. In 1966 they were probably still being rationed or something, and nuclear war was something people actually worried about. The Cold War is over. Deal with it.