Sunday, February 05, 2006

One small step for Man U...

It’s almost 50 years since Munich. No, not Chamberlain or Spielberg; Busby. Busby? Yes, Matt Busby, the Manchester United football (soccer) team coach. On February 6, 1958, in a snowstorm at Munich airport, the plane carrying the Man U team failed to clear the end of the runway and crashed, killing most of the team. Busby was seriously injured, but survived.
Ten years later, to national joy, the team’s young replacements, the Busby Babes, were the best team in the country.
Things have changed since then. Today, every British football fan supports two teams: his own, and the one playing Man U. Man U are the most reviled team in the country – and the man responsible for bringing the team, and the sport, into disrepute is their present manager, Alex Ferguson. He intimidates referees, encourages diving (his players feigning injury in order to win free kicks and get members of the other team sent off), time-wasting and other unsportsmanlike gestures - and he is very successful.

It’s a sporty weekend, with Everton playing Manchester City at soccer, England v. Wales, Ireland v Italy and Scotland v France at rugby, and the Superbowl tonight. A sporty, anxious, exciting and tearful weekend. Tearful? Well yes: first, because of dietary constraints there will be no chicken wings or potato crisps, and what’s a sporty weekend without chicken wings? Secondly, they play the Irish national anthem at the Ireland/Italy game – and that always makes me weep. It has something to do with my mother being Irish, and it recalls the ceilidhs we had on Sunday evenings when I was a kid in Liverpool and my mother used to sing ‘Paddy McGinty’s Goat’ and dance to Gaelic music on Irish radio. The Irish national anthem signalled the end of the programme – and my bedtime. So it means many things: childhood, fun, home, my mother - and her loneliness after we moved to another town where there weren’t any Micks with whom to dance ceilidhs.

But the weekend results are so far satisfactory: Everton won, as did England, Ireland and Scotland. The superbowl I don’t much care about this year so I’ll watch the big guys in tights tomorrow after the beer commercials and half-time excesses have been removed.

And now the bad news: Man U won.

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