Vieni a provarci se ti credi abbastanza duro!!

It’s easy when you live in a country where you don’t speak the language very well and don’t have many friends, to become a bit of a hermit and spend your days looking a porn or playing online poker, your self-esteem dribbling away from you with each passing pump. This is a bad idea. You need to get out and about and experience your new environment, meet new people and all that bollocks. So a couple of weeks ago my girlfriend took me out to Trastevere (about 15 minutes walk from the Vatican) to meet a friend of hers who speaks pretty much fluent English. ‘He’s bringing a few friends with him,’ she said. We met him by the River Tiber with his mates; three quite hot girls and one male friend.

Now like most people I like to pay lip service to not judging people by the way they look, but really that’s bullshit. If someone’s walking around all in black, with platform boots on and smothered in foundation and mascara I’m just as likely to think ‘looks like a tit’ as I am at someone wearing a shit pair of gold trainers and rocking the latest variation on the Euro Mullet. However, this young chap didn’t belong in either of the style brackets I’ve hastily constructed. He was wearing English style jeans, a shirt that only reveals itself to be a Burberry number when the sleaves are rolled up (they were), Nike Classic trainers and a tight fitting baseball cap, which gripped his shaven head in a manner not unlike a when a cartoon character – lets’s say, Daffy Duck – gets a plunger stuck on his skull. My first thought was ‘plastic football hooligan’, simply because they are even easier to spot than they are in England. Back in the UK, every knob with an attitude problem has got some kind of hoolie gear on, but in Italy, and particularly in Rome, they really stick out. This is because your average Roman dresses like he’s a hairdresser on a night out in Preston; ripped distressed jeans with silver or gold things emblazoned all over the arse, pastel coloured t-shirts with wacky logos and the aforementioned gold abortions on their feet. Just think Cristiano Ronaldo and you’ll know what I mean. Meanwhile the boys of the Curva Sud have a fetish for English hooligan gear – and English hooligans. Every Roman football fan has heard of Chelsea, West Ham and Millwall, and their opinions of all three of those clubs is stuck firmly in the terraces of the 1980s; upon revealing that she had a Chelsea fan boyfriend, an acquaintance of my girlfriend’s immeditely asked ‘Lui è un Headhunter?’ in an expectant fashion. Around where we live, near where the Tuscolana and the Appia Nouvo (the two main roads leading south-east out of the city) meet, I have seen five different people wearing Chelsea merchandise – three of them wearing the full tracksuit. Frankly I don’t think it’s a great coincidence that there’s a fascist youth club near by, but regardless of the supposed politics of both sets of fans, there is a respect and admiration for those London clubs with a big hooligan reputation.

Suffice to say the boy – who we shall call Daniele Daia – didn’t disappoint. The first thing that struck me about him, apart from the wannabe way he dressed, was his English, which was pretty much perfect, right down to the way he said ‘sorry?’ when he didn’t quite catch what you said. This was despite having never even visited England, which led me to presume he could have only learned the language via repeated viewings of Green Street.  My predictable response to his question of ‘who do you support?’ was enough to get him in full ‘banter’ mode. ‘I’m a MIllwall fan!’ he loudly proclaimed, mock-cowering beneath me, half-expecting some kind of violent response, or at least a joshy kick in the bollocks. Instead I looked at him in the only way I knew how; perplexed, embarrassed and completely unsure of what do with myself. However, that didn’t stop him from mining for great tales of clashing with Tottenham thugs on their manah, or making old ladies cry in provincial supermarket car parks while throwing shopping trolleys around and bouncing up and down like a caged chimp. ‘I like to fight after the match’ he explained to me, with an expectant glint in his eye, before doing that weird shoulder shuffle that wannabe hardmen do that’s supposed to be almost putting up your dukes but actually looks like you’re about to break out into the robot, Peter Crouch style.

Despite me offering nothing particularly interesting for him to latch onto he persisted; first with the ‘I also support West Ham United hahaha’ before launching into a cring-inducing ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’, then by calling LIverpool fans animals and talking about how he hated Man United. ‘I was there when those Manchester hooligans tried to take our cafe,’ he said, in what must be one of the lamest hooligan boasts of all-time. ‘but they weren’t proper fighters, they just wanted to attack women and children.’ As someone who during his short career has had more than enough hooligan thug memiors plonked on his desk, this sort of self-mythologising balls is easy to spot. Just scanning Suicide Squad, the memiors of an octogenarian tosser from Burnley called Andrew Porter will give you a fair idea of what I mean; From ‘Fair play to Carlisle, they came and had a go’, to ‘There were 10 of us and 120 of them, but we still gave it to ’em’, or ‘why are we getting banged up when muggers and rapists (you can almost hear him whispering ‘blacks and pakis‘ at this point) are being let out after two days and given £10,000 for good behaviour’, to ‘he was coloured, but all right with it’, most of what they say is exaggerated beyond any notion of reality, with thinly veiled hints of racism underneath. I doubt that any English ‘lads’ would brag about trashing Barry’s Greasy Spoon, mind you.

We manage to get ourselves sat down at a bar next to the river and he progresses onto bragging about his drinking exploits. ‘I’m an alcoholic’, he announced loudly. By this point I wasn’t sure if he’d mistaken me for a 15 year old teenage girl hanging around the swings in a park. ‘When go out I love to drink as much beer as I can, you know? Getting drunk and falling over the place. You need to drink like a man if you fight after the match like I do.’ An amusing comment in itself, made more so by the fact he was waving a pink cocktail around. Herbs and little wooden umbrellas all over the shop, you might say. I just about managed to keep a straight face, but the missus had to turn away for fear of spitting her sea breeze right in his face. ‘You know, normally I like beer, but it gets really gassy, so I like to drink these instead.’ I’m sorry, but HAHAHAHAHAHA. And then Hohohohoho for good measure.

By now the sheer disappointment in his face was obvious. Here I was, an English football fan, with a shaven head, who supports Chelsea, and I don’t like to punch people or stab them in the arse while driving past on a scooter? What a fucking pussy. All of which is true. At the end of the night we shook hands, but the sparkle in his eye had gone. I was the equivalent of Fergal Sharkey singing ‘A Good Heart’; a pansy, a sap, a sell out. How could something that was once so great become so wet? In my own roundabout way, I’d managed to spread my own disillusionment with English football abroad.


5 Responses

  1. Brilliant. Bravo. Bis.

    The Preston hairdresser comment is so true that it hurts (as do my sides from laughing).

    The change of scenery is doing you well.

  2. That’s the best thing I’ve read all week; thank you! Came by from SP’s link, and I’m pleased to have a new blog to read.

  3. Bless the pair of you. Now, vote for me at the thingy that you vote for the best post of the week. Go on, it’s around here somewhere.

  4. […] Posted on August 6, 2008 by theliquidator No readers, I haven’t met up with our old friend Danielle Daia to prove my manliness with a spot of pre-season football fisticuffs. I have in fact been spending […]

  5. Hi CB, I’lve also come through from Spangly’s link. Excellent post, very funny and very true (I also like the Preston hairdresser comment, and the Feargal sharkey one).

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