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🇬🇮 nutmeg fc #12
Today: Gibraltar to the World Cup, chapter 3
In the previous chapters of Gibraltar to the World Cup:
After realising that he will never again experience what he felt when Argentina won the 2022 World Cup, Miguel Perrone decides to go in search of a new impossible and becomes a fan of the Gibraltar national team, dreaming of their qualification to the World Cup. For the debut of the Euro qualifiers, he travels to the Rock where he discovers that Gibraltar does not play home games there, but in Portugal. With no time or fitness, an elderly lady takes him on her scooter to a bar where the match is being broadcast.
Miguel and Elle (that's the name of the old lady who kindly acted as his taxi) entered the bar with the game on and five minutes played. This was a problem for my Argentinian friend, who didn't know a single Gibraltarian player and wanted to take advantage of the announcement of the starting eleven to memorise some names.
It is not the same to get up outraged from your chair shouting "The left-back is lonelier than number one" as it is to shout "Valarino is lonelier than John Reid". Calling names gives cache and is a good way to start gaining the trust of your new supporters.
The task of memorising the players' surnames became even more complex when Miguel discovered that Elle was met by a large group of old people who, one by one, introduced themselves by name and mentioned someone he might know. One had a niece who had lived in Colombia, another had a neighbour who drank mate, another listened to Vilma Palma e Vampiros.
―The names were strange, but I thought they were typical of the area, besides I couldn't pay much attention to them. ―Miguel confesses to me the next day without imagining what was about to happen.
Miguel was uncomfortable, as if an invisible mosquito was lurking in his ears. He had imagined he would watch the game from the stands, but lack of planning had led him to a cucumber-scented bar. Although the match was being broadcast on a giant television set, the crowd was passionately disinterested. Except for Elle and her friends, the rest were staring at their phones or, worse, talking to each other with their backs to the screen. Finally, he was outraged by the empty, whale-like Estádio Algarve - who chooses such a big stadium if it's not going to bring in the crowds?
Five minutes later, no one had yet come to ask Miguel what he wanted to drink, but Greece had already approached the Gibraltar box several times and, after a dribble down the left, a cross back, a Greek who let the ball go through, another who cleverly opened it up, a cross-shot and an absolute passivity of the Gibraltar goalkeeper, Greece took the lead.
Miguel wanted to get up to reproach the reproduction of his goalkeeper on the television, but Elle and her friends anticipated him with a worn-out shout of happiness.
My friend's pulse stopped cold. He turned his head in horror to discover what was always in front of his eyes. The tzatziki, the grudge with the International Monetary Fund, the togas, the names... Christos, Kostas, Olympia, Manolis. Even Elle had told him her name was Eleftheria. How he didn't realise they were Greek is a bigger mystery than Faubert's signing for Real Madrid.
Beyond the guilt of having shared a table and tzatziki with the enemy, what Miguel feared was that the home fans would attack the elderly Greeks and he would be left in the middle of the Gibraltarian fury.
But the fury did not come. No one reacted, no one got angry, no one insulted, no one spat, no one wet pieces of napkin and threw them using the straws as blowpipes.
―They're decent ―I say.
―Worse, ―he replies― they are apathetic. They don't care. Football is the ultimate globally accepted barbaric expression. If we take away that side that unites us with the beasts, if we stop celebrating a bad tackle or getting angry because an opponent is happy, what are we left with? To be full-time desk clerks?
Miguel, then, decided to leave when not even fifteen minutes into the game had passed. He had nothing left to do there. Nothing to learn, nothing to absorb. The communion between him and the genuine Gibraltar fan will have to be from the stadium or it won't be.
―And how did the match end? ―I ask him.
But Miguel doesn't know, nor does he care. So I end up googling, something I could have done twenty-four hours earlier without having eaten unsweetened Greek yoghurt. The game was 0-1 as far as I know. A draw was not impossible. Gibraltar only needed to shoot on target once to equalise. Maybe they pulled it off.