Drunk diary from João Nuno Coelho:
WINE ? I DIDN´T COME TO ENGLAND TO DRINK WINE ! I WANT BEER*
THE BIG ADVENTURE : THE DRUNK DIARY OF EURO ´96
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...
Jun. 7 - THE BIG ADVENTURE.
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.
Jun., 8. DIFERENT KINDS OF WORRIES.
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
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...
Jun., 9. LIFE AND DEATH.
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...
Jun., 12. WHEATHER AND FOOD.
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.
Jun., 13. ARMCHAIR FOOTBALL.
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.
June, 14. THE NATIONAL ANTHEM.
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.
Or...as 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!
June, 16. DRINKING BEER.
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”
June, 18. BOMBED ADVERTISING.
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
June, 20. FOOTBALL TALK.
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...
June, 21. PICTURES OF PORTUGAL.
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...
June, 22. SAINT JOHN’S MALEDICTION.
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.
June, 24. LIFE IS FOOTBALL, THE REST ARE MERE DETAILS.
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
June, 25. THE GAME THAT RESISTS.
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.
June, 27. BRAZIL OF EUROPE.
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
June, 28. MAD CANTONA MADNESS.
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
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