Discover more from nutmeg fc
🇬🇮 nutmeg fc #20
Today: Gibraltar to the World Cup, chapter 5.
Previously on Gibraltar World Cup: Miguel Perrone's new dream of Gibraltar qualifying for the World Cup for the first time fails to take off. The first two matches are defeats and in the last one, Gibraltar don't manage to shoot on goal even once. But the statistics only give Miguel hope: after this dismal performance, what follows can only be better.
Argentines have a romantic distortion of tardiness.
We believe that being late for a date raises our status, makes us more interesting. As if a halo of mystery suddenly surrounded us. We imagine people wondering where we must have been, speculating that we were doing something undoubtedly more important. That's why we were late.
Tardiness is not seen as a lack of respect, nor as a lack of love. In fact, there is no stronger love than between an Argentine and their football team and the barrabravas pride themselves on being late for every game. No matter who they play, they always make their entrance with the game started, while the rest of the fans applaud their tardiness.
It is difficult for an Argentine to break with this patriotic mandate. So, although he had bought a seat on the bus taking Gibraltar fans to Portugal for the match against France, Miguel arrived late.
"At that moment," Miguel later told me, "I confirmed that my ethereal connection with the other Gibraltar fans had already begun. Spontaneously, without my saying anything to him, I was approached by a man dressed from head to toe in national team clothing who offered me a place on his bus, which was also going to the Estádio Algarve".
It probably also helped that my friend was lying on the ground crying loudly and insulting the bus driver for not waiting for him.
Grateful and with his eyes swollen from crying, Miguel got on the bus that would take him to the stadium and took a seat near the back. But there was something odd in the air. That fans wear the kit of the team they support is normal, but that they all wear exactly the same clothes is, to say the least, curious. Moreover, the atmosphere was excessively quiet. Some were listening to music on headphones, others were watching films, a couple were talking quietly. It was not the kind of fan bus Miguel had expected.
His benefactor, the man who had invited him on the bus, sat down next to Miguel, stretched out his arm and introduced himself: "I'm Roy, nice meeting you". It was the moment Miguel had been waiting for. At last he was going to be able to engage in deep conversation with a real Gibraltar supporter. No undercover Greeks.
But, as soon as he shook Roy's hand, the pain struck him dumb. The handshake was so strong that Miguel only managed to say half his name before he had to stifle a cry of pain.
There was little he could talk about thereafter. Just superficialities. Roy was from London originally, but had moved to Gibraltar when he was only four years old. He had two sons. He was an Arsenal supporter. He worked as a customs officer. Not much else.
The profession came as a bit of a surprise to him. He knew Gibraltar had very high levels of smuggling, but it was a long way from hiring a guy who looked like a balding He-Man doll.
It wasn't just Roy. All the Gibraltar fans looked incredibly fit. There were four or five older ones who had a bit of a beer belly, but the rest seemed to live on quinoa and saying bro.
The impact was such that the normally carefree Miguel began to feel overly self-conscious about his own body. He could feel his belly bulging out from under a t-shirt that was too short. "It had shrunk in the laundromat," he explained to me later. "Of course," I replied, being a very good friend. He also felt the perspiration trapped in the folds that formed in his neck and he couldn't get his thighs apart as if one were Maradona and the other the Peruvian Reyna. He even felt his flesh turn to jelly with the vibrations of the bus.
"It was horrible," he told me staring at the floor, "it was as if they were works of art sculpted by Michelangelo himself and I..."
The end of the ride was a great relief and, that Roy and the rest of the fit fans entered the stadium through another gate was celebrated like a goal.
But the trip had opened his eyes. He was going to change his habits. No more flour, no more sugar, no more processed foods, no more beer. He would start to eat healthily, to exercise, to drink plenty of water, to rest well. He looked at the time. The match was still two hours away. He had to find something to occupy the time. How do you say pancho in Portuguese, he wondered.
Already seated in the stands and with his stomach full, he looked around for Roy and the rest of his travelling companions. There weren't many fans, so it seemed strange not to find them.
The problem was that he was looking in the wrong place. Roy and the gang were there, but not in the stands, but on the pitch, in Gibraltar jerseys, ready to put the ball in play against Mbappé's France.