It is about watching a match in Venezuela.
The show has to start at three in the afternoon, as at six o' clock every single pub in the country has to be shut. The last hours before the election, the whole country has to be sober, which is a rule in Venezuela apparently. There's a time difference of five hours, so actually the game will be played in the morning local time her on Isla Margarita. But that's a mere detail. The video will be playing during the morning and then in the afternoon we can see the whole match. Even for British tourists on a holiday sitting in a pub at ten in the morning is exaggerating it. Two days before the election day, the vote is being cancelled suddenly. Problems with the computers and its programms (Note: this was before the American elections, though it shouldn's surprise anyone that the computers in question were American) and the pub has a problem as well. Apparently it is very complicated to change the time of kick-off, as Wembley has been sold out, as the British F.A. does not appear to be very sensitive for the argument that British pubs overseas have a problem with the timing. It is also fairly difficult to show the match at nighttime. The band has been booked alreadyand as the posters are hanging everywhere in town, the punters are expected in the afternoon. The longer it takes inbetween the match itself and the time to show it here, the bigger the risk that someone knows the result and doesn't bother to show up anymore. Or worse does show up and tells the score to others who don't know it. It'll be the original time anyway then. British Bulldog is the name of the pub in Porlamar on Isla Margarita, a small holiday paradise on a Carribean island, just a bit off the coast of Venezuela, the whole island depending on the tourism industry nowadays. The pub isn't as bad as you might recon from its name, I can see no traces to the British nationalists, the landlord was actually born in British Guyana and when in Birmingham or Newcastle would feel itself as much an outsideras I would. I am visiting Allison over here, an ex-collegue of mine, the only other holiday rep on the whole island of Menorca who knows something about football, in the days that I worked there. She has convinced many of her guests to come over here for the match (didn't take much of an effort) and apart from that there's a few of her colleagues here as well. At the start of the match the pub seems reasonably full. There's about 40 people here, mainly British obviously, nearly all men, though there's a few wifes and girlfriends in here as well, and two small kids. There's a couple of Venzolanos here, one of them wearing a Brazilian shirt. He's the only one supporting the big and mighty neighbour in here today. Looking around you can see the type of tourist that does go to this island. In England, where the class society hasn't died down completely yet, the people here would barely qualify for the category lower middle class. And even though every single one of them has been on the island for only two days now, some of them have managed to obtain the bright red skin colour, for which British tourists are known all around the world. The tropical sun appeared to be a bit stronger than expected... Allison glances in the direction of the bar and remarks that every single one of the few sitting there could have been her brother. Far from slim, slightly bolding, enjoys his footy, loves a pint or two, the midrif showing that it usually doesn't stop after the second either. Looking from behind the whole row does indeed seem fairly similar. Likewise the few ladies around appear to be very British as well, they wouldn't be easily mistaking for any other nationality in their hotels here. Before the match started one eats a Sheperd's pie or, when healthy, a Winston Churchill salad and one is very happy that no attempt at communicating with somebody whose mother tongue is Spanish is necessary. There's only a reluctant singing along with the national anthem and the usual criticisms as the starting line-up appears on the screen ("You can't play both Neville brothers" and "What the F*** is Wise doing on that pitch?"), though Paul Ince gets a big cheer, even though the general consensus is that his international days should have been over by now. He had his time, he's not up to scratch anymore. During the match they are really into it. It doesn't really matter that they are watching the game inside a stadium or from a screen, never mind that the match was played hours ago thousands of miles away. They shout their cheers towards the tv, applauds after a good attack or when the goalie saves a difficult ball. 'Oohs' and 'aahs' are audible at the chances, however fewof them there are. I enjoy sitting in between English fans at a football match. While travelling I have seen many a match either live in the stadium or on a screen, but as fans the English beat all the other nationalities. The Dutch have all got wooden clogs, caps and other orange articles of clothing, but the majority of them doesn't seem to understand the game very well and when they're honest they will admit that they have come for the atmosphere and the party, more than for the match itself. Germans do not enjoy the beautiful game. They are there hoping that their team wins and should they do so, they are still not happy, but they see it as a confiramtion of their superiority. Italians are too fanatic, too emotional. They can't see beyond the game and are non-humorous while watching it, whereas the Americans haven't got a clue about the game, waiting for time-outs, complaining about the lack of scoring, the lack of action. I'll exchange every single one of them for a normal Brit. He is cheering for his team, drinks a pint in the meantime, knows what he is talking about and has a sense of humour while doing so. His sense of proportion is correct. To me the typical British fan is not the one that the whole world likes to makeof him. Abroad the perception of all of the British supporters is based on a few hundred idiots who see every foreign trip of their team as an excursion into under-developed territory, the kind of place that should have been colonised hundreds of years ago, so they could have at least have had a bit of culture by now, but the lack of it at the moment can still be beaten into the spics. These few unfortunately spoil it for thousands of others who come along, for millions of others who really do love the game. The game isn't bad, both teams are playing an attractive game, both play to win, even though this is 'only' a friendly. The moment Owen opens the score, just beore halftime, a big cheer is heard far from the pub. Only one lonely Venezolano in a yellow Brazilian shirt is looking sad. After a few seconds the crowd turns their heads towards him and laughs and he uses the attention to start a little show. Getting up, making some dismissive gestures towards the screen, before leaving the bar completly, while everybody's laughing now. Not even a minute later he re-enters the bar wearing an England shirt, sees the final rerun on the screen, cheers for his new team and retakes his places. His joke is widely appreciated around here. As soon as the Brazilians equalize in injury time of the first half, all eyes automatically gaze in his direction. Again he gets up and leaves the bar, as does his mate. A couple of minutes after that they enter the bar together again, one of them in the Brazilian shirt, the other with the white shirt and the three lions. The message could obviously be that one watches the game together, no matter what happens. During the half time break a British Bulldog t-shirt is the main prize of the half-time raffle, for which we all got a ticket somewhere during the first half. The video is being fast forwarded, for those who didn't realize it yet the proof the game isn't live, however much the posters this week tried to convince them it was. The second half is boring compared to the first one. Keegan brings on a few substitutes, giving some of them the opportunity the play themselves in the final squad for the Euro 2000 tournament in Belgium and the Netherlands. The attention of most fans here drifts away slowly, those who work here on the island, are doing their social rounds and the game stays like it was at halftime, 1-1. Some of the women who left before the match to go shoppingin Porlamar, return to pick up their husbands and boyfriends. The taxi's are suddenly very busy, while most people leave the pub. I am lucky and get to see a match in the NBA play-offs, one of my favorite sports to watch on television. The only Dutchman at that level, Rik Smits, plays a good game, but his team the Indiana Pacers still loses to the New York Knicks. A few weeks later I am back for a game during the Euro 2000 tournament. It's England against Germany today, but there's very few people there. The hotels and resorts make sure that they keep their guests inside their gates, especially with the football going on every day. The result is less than a dozen people together here, no real atmosphere to watch a match, which turned out to be the worst in the whole tournament. The only positive point being the fact that England finally did beat the Germans, 34 years after that final. But that's enough said.