Is football your attitude? ELEVEN attitudes




Drunk diary from João Nuno Coelho:


This is a kind of a diary on thoughts and feelings about the life of a Portuguese football madman that survived a bomb, Moss Side, hangover and tons of beer in England, during the three weeks, football went back home to ENGLAND.

* (si) The title to this text was suggested to me, in fact they forced me, by Adam Brown and Tim Crabbe, after something that happened with us and some other friends. It’s a simple story. We were having dinner, late at night, in a curry (I ate curry seven times in three weeks), in Sheffield, after Portugal-Denmark. When we ordered some drinks, someone suggested that we should drink wine. Everyone got excited with the idea...when I said this words that got famous and followed me until the end of my adventure at the Euro’96. Is that funny? Ask them...


It began in Portugal. Lisbon, 1 a.m., 25 degrees. It´s nice and easy to drink cold beer on such a hot night. Even easier if you are scared to death when travelling by plane and your flight to Manchester is at 6 a.m.
11.30 a.m. Manchester. I arrived at last. I´m not drunk anymore. Too many hours of drinking. I swear I´m not an alcoholic hooligan arriving . Just a guy that prefers to feel the ground under his feet. I breathe a sigh of relief. The nightmare is over ...for three weeks when I ‘ll have to fly back. The first pleasure is to see my Mancunian friends...
8.30. p.m. You breathe football here. It’s just the first day and I’ve already been to a couple of exhibitions and conferences about the game. And you don’t talk about anything else. I feel in paradise. Well, in a way, it feels like home.


My God, it´s tomorrow. I’m getting more and more anxious about Portugal’s first match. I still don’t believe I’m here. Here, where it all happens. That’s a young boy´s dream fulfilled: to be in a major international football tournament.

I did not come here to celebrate my national identity (I want beer!)...I came to celebrate my love for the “beautiful game”. Better as I can do it in the proper way : being strongly identified with one of the teams. That’s the basic condition to really participate in a party that is also a drama...
Meanwhile, the Portuguese players are also worried...with their contracts for the next season. In the hotel rooms, by mobile phones, they take care of their bank account...


I died and was reborn in the Hillsborough Stadium. The strange Danish goal killed me. Total and brutal disappointment. And Portugal plays well, but doesn’t score. Will it always be like this ? Dispair. Why did I come here ? Eventually, rebirth and euphoria : Portugal equalises.
Within 90 minutes all the drama, conflict, incertitude, emotional tension, a profusion of feelings of the most perfect play taken into stage by the best theatre company. High culture ?!

Jun., 10. GUINESS.

For sure the best beer in the world. Coming from probably the most beautiful country (and the nicest people) in the world. That’s what I was wondering about while I was drinking my first Guiness on the Big Adventure. Somewhere in Manchester, in the cosy darkness of an Irish pub, in a lazy afternoon. Oh, that’s true, I also thought: “This is life”.

Jun., 11. MOSS SIDE.

What a place to live in Manchester ! The taxi driver who took me home today almost wished me a nice funeral. Mine. When I told him the adress he immediately started to talk about how dangerous that zone was, about the “blacks”, killers, robbers, drug dealers. A nightmare. I was given a lot of advice. Don´t walk around, don´t talk to no one, seven keys on the door. By that time, I thought he was going to ask me if I didn’t want to go straight to the airport instead. And I’m not sure if I wouldn’t agree. But for god’s sake I came here for the football, so I’m mad...


Why do the center of the world system has, in general, bad wheather and poor food ? Maybe because the others deserve some compensations. England and Manchester are the typical cases. I like this place a lot, but the food...and the wheather...What is left ? Nevertheless, that is what gives a special personality to this country. And you can be sure that only those who really like this place come here.


Watch football on TV with a couple of English fellows is “the” ultimate football experience. It’s like if they were on the stadium. Jumping, screaming, protesting, applauding. What a difference from the dull typical Portuguese football fan behaviour watching the game on TV. But the most incredible is the fact that they do all this despite their team is playing or not . A totally different way of living and loving the game.


I would never sing it if there was not football. We all are a bit nationalists in certain situations. The game drives me through this doubtful ways...Moreover, the Portuguese anthem is really hard to sing. My deep belief is that no one can sing it perfectly, not even Pavarotti. It must be composer´s fault. And the lyrics, well, it’s better not to talk about it, so nationalistic and belligerent. Nevertheless, it sounds great when you’re in the middle of a crowd, at the stadium, anxious as ever, waiting for the match to get started. Among the turbulence of voices, including mine, desperately singing it word by word, it’s beautiful as always. never before.
Today, we beat the Turkish, 1-0. Things get going.

June, 15. The BOMB.

I believe I was the only one in entire Manchester, that didn’t hear or, at least, that was not woken by the bomb that exploded downtown. I must admit that it terrorized me. Surprisingly, it looks I was the only one. Everyone faced it so naturally, that I finally realized that it is not such a big deal if a centre of a town is partially destroyed by a bomb.
Two hours later I was kicking a ball at a park. Swell!


This is truly the English national sport. No one can beat them, not even the German penalties. Since I’m here I must have drunk dozens of pints. At last! My figure will pay the bill, that is for sure. But who cares, I’m in England and this is the big party. Besides, for someone that is used to choose between four or five Portuguese beers not too different one from each other...

June, 17. GERMANS.

It couldn’t happen anywhere else. To organize a football tournament in the afternoon, so that the fans can imitate their idols. The problem was that only the Germans showed up. Out of sixteen teams, thirteen were German. It was almost like Bundesliga. It was clear that they don’t stand to lose, even if it’s just a recreation. My legs are still complaining. Probably, it’s because they go for it so professionally that they rarely lose. Perhaps, it’s because of this that someone said “what is football ? football is a eleven a side ball game and in the end the Germans win”


The heroes on the Nike outdoors spread all over Manchester: Kluivert, Maldini, Ferdinand, Ginola, among others. Everything went wrong for Nike. Some of those players were not in the Euro’96, others would have done better if they had stayed at home, others were there but always thinking about something else.
However, the outdoors malediction was all around. Just right in front of my host house was this big outdoor, where you could read: “Arndale Shopping Centre: Expect the Unexpected”. Exactly. Once upon a time there was this shopping. And then came the bomb I have already talked you about. Just to sum up, this advertising “jewel” on another outdoor: a football picture and, right below, the following legend: “2nd Sex, 3rd Money”.

June, 19. A PERFECT DAY.

A beautiful town: Nottingham.
An excellent lunch: In a Portuguese restaurant.
A fantastic football match: Portugal-Croatia.
A cool atmosphere: all-time party among Portuguese supporters.
A great result: 3-0. Croatia, the best-protected team by European press was beaten.
A dream came true: to be in the quarters of the Euro’96.
That’s what makes a perfect day for a (Portuguese) football fan.


I often question my mental sanity for spending so much time of my life doing and thinking in different sorts of things directly related to football: watching, playing, talking. I love to talk about football. Its history, tactics, players, referees, equipment, the social meaning of the game, etc. In England, I was in paradise for three weeks. Putting all together, I spent entire days talking about football. Moreover, it helped me to make some new friends. OK, I guess what you guys may be thinking: what a waste of time, here it is one more cultural idiot, etc. But, you know, each one is the only responsible for his own hapiness...


Final classification of stereotypes achieved in the Big Adventure, by the non-scientific method of free association. What does Portugal remember you of?
1st : Algarve - 4 points.
2nd: Golf - 2 points.
3rd: Football - 2 points.
4th: Spain - 2 points (“Do you speak Spanish or do you have your own language?”)
5th: Wine (Port ?...) - 1 point.
Conclusions: Meet Portugal, meet the unknown...


Oh no! I was talking about my hometown, with an Englishman in a pub when I decided to tell him about the Saint John’s evening in Oporto as so unique it is - a big popular party that involves all the city until the dawn. . I told him: “...look, by the way, it’s tomorrow, and I won’t be there for the first time since I was a kid. On the other hand, I’m at the Euro’96”. Suddenly, I got frozen deep inside and a traumatic memory took over my spirit: me and my schoolmates desperately trying to have fun in the Saint John’s evening back in 1984. Just after a nightmare match: France-Portugal in Marseille, semi-finals of the European Championship, we lost in the last minute of extra-time and the French got qualified to the final. I never forgot that sadness and, on that moment, I felt that the coincidence was not more than a prediction of the defeat.

June, 23. The hat.

It was right in front of me, for God’s sake. Poborsky luckily passed our defenders, there was no one to brake him a leg (as I would), he was one against five but got space to kick the ball, I got in panic, moved my head trying to follow his shot, hoping for the worst not to happen. Besides, there was Baía, our trustful goal-keeper. Then, something really strange happened. I lost the trace of the ball. Poborsky got it wrong, I thought. I misunderstood it all, unfortunately. I just had time to see something circular falling -I think it’s the right word, the only one, indeed -, like a stone, heavy, in my head, that is, in the Portuguese goal. I got a terrible headache. I guess just Baía had one bigger than mine. You know the rest of the story: the European champions of the dancing football were beaten by the Czech washing machines. That’s football, people say. That’s life, I know. And there it was the Saint John’s malediction.


We, the mad fans, who spend a great time of our lives thinking about football , knew it already. But there was this smart fellow who made a t-shirt out of his idea and sold both of them outside the stadiums for five pounds. I bought one. It’s too large, weird, lousy confectioned. But who cares? Isn’t life like that, anyway?


That global culture that the postmodernists are so keen to talk about, in nothing but a globalized localism. An American localism. The culture that gets globalized is the one that refers to McDonalds, Coca-cola, wrestling. The rest is bullshit. That is why it makes me feel so pleasant the fact that football, the most popular sport in the planet, has never been, and never will be North American. Although, those ones who rule football, want it more than anything. But we will resist, because our game is not only for those who want to play it, but for those who can play it...

June, 26. HACIENDA!

How many of you, English or even Mancunians, have ever played football in a mythic place such as a as Hacienda? Not many, I would bet on that. Me, a simple Portuguese from the semi-periphery of the world-system, have done it. And I loved it. “Once upon a time”, I will tell to my grandchildren.


Elegant, beautiful, cool, soft and gentle. Everything was said about the Portuguese team football style. Fair enough, no doubts about it. But this characteristics are related not only with the technical qualities and game style, but also with a certain inefficiency and incapacity to score, to give the final cut. Without doubt, the most beautiful football in the Cup turns to be irritant, frustrating, mainly for the anxious Portuguese supporters. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure: if only one team can win, and it is not ours, let us be recognized as the best among the loosers, the most admired. So, Brasil of Europe, said the press. Please correct me if I’m wrong: wasn’t the Portuguese middle field in this cup more “Brazilian” than Brazil itself in the World Cup’94? Rui Costa, Figo, Paulo Sousa, Joâo Pinto compared with Dunga, Zinho, Mauro Silva and Raí. So, maybe Brazil is Portugal of America.


A poster in my English friend and host home: “1966 was a great year for English football. Eric Cantona was born”. The man that saved the “boring” (that’s your opinion!) English football is, imagine, a French, a frog. That’s what at least the Manchester United supporters feel. It must be the end of the world. But it isn’t.
Cantona, with his eccentric behaviour and geniality when playing, turned to be the most famous foreigner in the Kingdom. On the streets, pubs, stadiums, on shirts, masks, outdoors he is everywhere. The “Rambo and Rimbaud” (as he was once called) is the King of the British Football. Where the hell was he in this June ?

June, 29. GOING HOME.

I haven’t left Manchester yet and I’m already missing it. For those who are crazy about football, it is somehow like missing home. But anyway, I’m moving from one home to another. And at the Portuguese one you don’t have exciting football but at least you have excellent meals...
11 a.m. The flight is at 12. I’m sitting at a bar in the airport with a double whisky staring at me. The barman has looked at me once or twice, in a mixture of repugnance and curiosity, served in double, as the Scotch. But I really need to have a pleasant, calm, relaxing trip. I still need to buy some music, let’s say, Oasis...

June, 30. (In Portugal). THE RIDICULOUS GOAL.

It is against all the essence of this game not to have the possibility to reply to a goal that the other team has scored. It is rather cruel. And we all know that there is no use in crying over spilled milk. And we shall not do it. But that is what we get from the golden goal or sudden death (a much more appropriated expression). Fortunately, the golden goal has managed to humiliate those people from UEFA and FIFA in this championship: firstly, because it refused to come up when it was most desired, forcing penalties in four out of six second phase matches. In second place, because it showed up in the final, dressing a goal so dull, so boring, so ugly, that it deserves the most ridiculous nickname in history of the important competitions’ finals: Golden Goal? “Goofy Goal”...


© by João Nuno Coelho