England, Algeria and a city en fête

Clip: Matt2586

There was another night when England had an important match, and I found myself enjoying a non-football night out in France instead.

It was only a week or two before September 11. England away to Germany in a World Cup qualifier. I was tucking into a great meal in the pretty Normandy town of Honfleur, not far from the distinctly unpretty city of Le Havre. Such was the depth, then, of my eternal club-before-country feeling that I’d briefly forgotten about the game in Munich.

On a table a few feet from mine, a group of English people were getting excited. I suddenly remembered about the game, heard mention of five and immediately feared the worst. But hang on, they sound happy, ecstatic even. So I wandered over and asked the obvious questions and returned to my table with news of Owen’s hat trick, a famous 5-1 win and other details of no interest to a football-loathing Frenchwoman.

Leaving the Cranberries’ excellent concert in Nice – go to this link if you want to read more on that – I was fully aware that England had been playing Algeria.

There was a shuttle bus back into town, and the desire to know the score was outweighed by the need for food. But in a fashion similar to Sept 2001, I learnt what I thought must have been the outcome.

As we reached the centre of Nice, the part of the city that owes its allegiance to Algeria was out in force and the place was en fête. We’d lost!

Then the Indian restaurant I’d spotted earlier came into view and I wasn’t going to risk arriving too late to be served. Inside, an Indian family – parents and two children all speaking French to one another – was engrossed in some Bollywood on the large screen. No football there. And no one among the mainly Pakistani staff had the faintest idea about England v Algeria (if I’d asked about a a minor cricket tournament from the late 1960s, they’d have offered more information than you’d ever need).

So it had to wait. I’d dutifully left my mobile in the hotel, so the vitriol pouring from the fingertips of fellow Blackcats list subscribers – “f****** shite?; no, Jeremy, It wasn’t as good as that!” – was not available to me.

Walking back to the hotel, I saw another family, this one decked out in the colours of Algeria. I just wanted to know by how many England had lost. “Non,” came the reply. “We didn’t win. It was a match nul. 0-0.”

Enough, though, for French-Algerians to celebrate, as if they’d just beaten Leeds in the FA Cup Final in 1973. And enough to confirm that give or take Anelka’s obscenities aimed at his team coach, our World Cup is not so different, not so better so far than France’s.

Colin Randall

6 thoughts on “England, Algeria and a city en fête”

  1. I like your thinking Jeremy and that was the case in 2002. But don’t forget that Given played almost as many games for us a Mboma so it was also a case of Sunderland player scoring against an ex Sunderland player. Now I’m off to the bookies to see if I can get odds on Da Silva putting one past Sorensen!

  2. Mboma (who was on loan of course) scored for Cameroun against Ireland in 2002 WC in South Korea. Sunderland player scoring past a Mag goalkeeper. Poetry! 🙂

  3. Not sure when a Sunderland player last scored a World Cup finals goal, but I was glad to see this one! (Even if said player probably hasn’t seen the city of Sunderland yet.)

    Nice finish as well, a midfielder who can hit a ball sweetly and score a goal is ideal for us.

  4. Those who read Sixer’s series of past World Cup memories may have seen my comment that I have never ever been optimistic about England’s chances in big games since the night we played Poland in 1974. Well I can honestly say I haven’t been disappointed in England’s performances so far this time because (and I hate to say it) this is what I have come to expect. I hope I don’t sound smug because I’d love us to do well but experience has taught me good performances in the final stages of big tournaments don’t happen very often.

    Incidentally, that one good performance in Germany coincided with a bout of labyrinthitis that I picked up whilst enjoying a weekend away in Sidmouth. Despite being unable to stand up and constant vomiting a local doctor that we called out could not be convinced I wasn’t pissed up. I slept right through the match and ended up spending three days in hospital, having become severely dehydrated. The one game that might have given me cause for optimism will forever be associated with misery and feeling dreadful.

    Now excuse me as I must go and write a new Smiths album!

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