Monthly Archives: June 2016

Angleterre: Au revoir

Dear readers,

This could be taken in a couple ways looking back at the last seven days. Politicians in Britain (more so the UK), which I’ve decided has lost its right to name itself Great, have put the people in very dire straits with the world looking on in a mixture of concern, disgust and annoyance (except for EU sceptics and far right loons). Simultaneously, three teams in the UK have been playing in the UEFA European Championship. While Wales heroically stride through the tournament like a team that has been entering major cups for years and Northern Ireland who defied the odds by reaching the second round, not to forget the Republic of Ireland’s success over Italy (yes, I know it’s not part of the UK, and I can only imagine the irritation the Irish feel when they are referred to by English commentators as a “home nation“), England have somehow managed to make yet another mockery of the most over-used expression in football, “the beautiful game“; the sport that we English are so quick to remind world was created on those very green isles. If you don’t know it already (and even if you don’t like footy, you honestly really should), England crashed out to a team of big sons, rather than big guns, and a country so cold it decided to name itself after the weather. Yes, that team is Iceland. And as cruel irony would have it, a country not in the EU.

A lot has been said about the country’s population. Coventry’s is slightly bigger I believe. 10% of it has been in France for the tournament, I also hear (you can almost hear Iceland’s no-gooders looting empty homes of their celebrating compatriots). I read the assistant coach had to prolong his vacation from his part-time job as a dentist as Iceland trounce Europe’s former mediocre soccer powers (it would have to be his luck that his dental practice boss is the country’s sole inhabitant who has absolutely no interest in football and is a hermit with no clue of his country’s success.

“Why are you late from your vacations?”
“Er… we won Euro 2016.”
“LIE. You’re fired!”)

All this means diddily to me. Like all neutrals, I am very happy for Iceland. Not in a patronising way by reciting population statistics like those above, but in seeing the people experience such euphoria in the country’s first appearance in a cup, and the players living the moment by playing good aggressive football. Mark my words, this was no fluke. Anyone who writes off this team is going to get slapped across the face by a cold Icelandic fish, and ol’ England had its turn on Monday night.

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I saw this coming. It had banana skin written all over it (or maybe “iceberg warning” is a more appropriate metaphor). Facebook updates from English fans stunk of arrogance, sighing with relief that we’d missed a date with the bizarre eye-browed Ronaldo, assuming that we were going to roll Iceland over, except it was they who were real steam rollers (or harpooners? Sorry for the terrible stereotypes), knocking down the English kindergartners to every ball. Another cruel irony is that Iceland played like a traditional English team, with a rigid 4-4-2 formation, using aggression and quick long passes to the big lads up front; it really should have suited the English perfectly. The Icelandic team is coached by the Swede Lars Lagerbäck who has a very good record against England. Iceland themselves were on form and had already knocked out the Dutch in the qualifiers, beating them home and away. The omens weren’t good. The Icelandic players spoke before the game of their love of the Premier League, and seemed to know more about our game than we knew about ourselves. This Premier League season has been year of the underdog with Leicester City claiming the title, a team that also plays in blue, yet we could be seeing a repeat of an unbelievable victory on international level with Iceland. I bet the bookies are shitting themselves.

The thing is, and Pamela can back me up, I really didn’t care about the game as an England fan. I have been glued to my phone since Friday morning, like most Britons, trying to get the latest news unravelling in the imploding of UK politics. Turning my attention from the game to learn that pound was free-falling was a far more horrifying worry than Joe Hart’s terrible goalkeeping (that boy was great while on loan at Birmingham back in 2010. He wasn’t bad at all then. He must have picked it up these bad habits at Man City. Look at Raheem Sterling, for example), although it wasn’t far behind. The UK has bigger fish to fry outside football, going against Bill Shankley’s famous saying regarding the importance of the sport. More than ever, England has become Europe’s favourite team to hate, especially after the crowd trouble, and we are better left out. I also felt ashamed of being British for this vote, especially for Brexit’s racist components.

England got off to a great start with an early penalty, then almost immediately Iceland immediately hit back through a header from a long throw, from which England knew Iceland were dangerous before the game, then another goal soon after thanks to yet another calamity by an English goalkeeper. Like all England fans, there was always this thought that the team would suddenly click into gear. After the 30th minute, with England’s passing as wayward as a Brexit campaigner’s fact, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Even the players who played reasonably well earlier in the tournament looked run ragged and broken. Dier and Rooney and Walker resorted to hit and hope balls. It was that point I gave up and cooked up a feast for my wife; fish in orange with a ratatouille sauce mixed with potatoes. It had to be a French dish; my own way of giving Brexit a two finger salute. My wife assures me it was delicious. The best news I’ve had in the last seven days. Here’s some pictures:

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The Icelandic game plan worked perfectly, whereas England didn’t seem to have one, other than their own version of directionless tiki-taka. England’s attacks ended in half chances and everything Iceland produced was clinical and they looked like scoring more. People complain about Italy, but I find their style fascinatingly tense and effective; soaking up pressure, then BAM. Maybe Iceland’s robustness made us hapless, or maybe the players were affected by the post-Brexit mess, although I don’t want readers to think I’m looking for excuses. England were out fought and out-played. Simple.

When the game ended, I almost did a little sea shanty jig, but I did listen to Sigur Ros at full blast, just like the rest of Europe was probably doing. The pain was over in sport. England are currently a second round team at best, like the UK in world politics. There is some talent coming through. There is a plan of winning the 2022 World Cup, but I’m about as convinced of that as me winning Wimbledon next year. The pressure on the players is too much. The plan is fine, but just play to enjoy. The fear and tension transmits to the supporters; we feel it, too. But more crucially, so do the opposition.

The players aren’t tatalentless. Harry Kane is still good and his ridiculously bad free kick the other night does not make him terrible. Nor do I think this group of players are passionate-less. There is a problem with the mentality. Gareth Bale’s comments, which I mocked, might have some truth after all, especially when you consider the individualism in the England team, stepping out on to the field believing we have already won the game, exactly like we did against Iceland. I guess it’s a self-deserving mentality, stemming from imperialism, something we’ve been accused of by members of the European Union for years when don’t get our way. We think we deserve to win cups and hold tournaments, just because we created the sport. It’s an arrogance I’ve touched on in earlier posts, and it sits there in the back our minds and acts as a huge blockade. You could see how we flapped and fell apart when Iceland bullied us. We didn’t like it nor could we handle it. The arrogance also gives the opposition fuel to beat us, which must make it quite enjoyable for everyone to watch us lose. The media revels in the hype before tournaments, but I don’t think it exists in all of us fans. We have blind hope, maybe. However, if we don’t do something to overcome the mentality, we will continue the barren spell at big tournaments and celebrate unimportant friendly victories, the one off one shit wonder results, while our rivals load themselves with medals. It’s fine to be ambitious, but make sure you score the goals before you call yourself a champ.

Saying that, why don’t other teams in the UK have this complex mentality?
Another school for thought is that English players favour their clubs. It’s been the case for years with Lampard and Gerrard et al. Sir Alex Ferguson often said the English leagues are more tribal than anywhere else, whether it be in the Midlands, North East, North West, London etc. I understand that other countries have their own derbies or conflicts between clubs which go beyond the sport, whether it Real Madrid v Barcelona, Marseille v Paris St Germain or northern Italian clubs against those in the south. However, there does seem to have been conflicts in the England team, such as Liverpool and Man Utd players sitting at separate tables while on England duty. Does this happen with other teams though? I don’t know. Barça and Real Madrid players are known to clash on Spanish duty. Look at the conflicts between Sergio Ramos and Pique.

Roy Hodgson quit as England manager immediately after the game, which was a sad necessity. The knives were out for him from the start because the “people” (claim the mainstream press) didn’t get their man Harry Redknapp. It was in fact a poison chalice. I don’t believe England would have done much better with anyone else. After Capello, England needed to bring in youth. He did that. England needed to change their playing style. He did that. England wanted someone stable to deal with the John Terry scandals effectively. He is and did that. England needed an English manager who understands the English mentality. He is and he did that. Very few game him credit for a 100% win record in qualifying. In fact no one seemed to care of the success in the continent and he got to a Europa League final with Fulham with not the greatest squad of players. Over time, people wanted a less conservative approach and a change of formation. He did that. Not only that, he often played with three to four recognised strikers at any one time. What the hell do people want?!

Quite simply, he was a decent man who people loved to criticise. A horrible job is England manager, where everything you do is under the microscope and everyone has an opinion. And if you make the wrong decision, you’re suddenly incompetent, spawn of the devil, shit forever. He wasn’t the best coach, okay, but he wasn’t the worst. He’s not got the winning mentality of Jose Mourinho or Sir Alex Ferguson, but would they take the England job and tarnish their reputations forever? No chance. Look at Sven, look at Capello, look at Taylor, look McClaren. All of them were considered good coaches with great reputations before they took the England job. Now?

Of course, you can point out errors he was punished for. I will, too. What was the game plan? Why were strikers out on the wing? Why did he pick Wilshire over Drinkwater? Why did he insist on playing Sterling? Decisions cost him two big tournaments. It’s a shame. He did his best on a salary far less than Fabio Capello’s. No one can ask more.

When the next coach comes in, he (or she) could well reap the benefits of the system Hodgson has tried to put in place. Instead, Hodgson will find it hard to get a job at a top club ever again. No thank yous. No pat on back. Just the legacy of losing to Iceland and good riddance. Not very polite. Not very British. He deserves somewhat better.

Now we are out of Euro 2016, I guess we can follow Wales or Iceland or just suffer more political embarrassments as United Kingdom self-destructs. I think Honduras plays in the Olympics. Might be interesting. On this blog though, don’t expect many positive articles my home country for a while. Very worrying times.


The UK and the EU: What happens now?

Dear readers,

Honduras is seven hours behind. It meant I could keep tabs on the results. I watched as the results come in in a land far away that in recent years has become increasingly alien to me, trickling in with such a disappointing pattern: Brexit. I kept thinking there would be once place that would swamp the leave vote and I would breathe a sigh of relief. It didn’t come and it wasn’t going to come. Sleep got the better of me around 10pm (5am GMT). I awoke early this morning with my phone beeping frantically with messages and social media links of news I didn’t think would ever happen: Brexit won. But at the same time I am not shocked at all.

How did it come about?

David Cameron and others within the political class have been systematically eroding the fabric of British society for a long time, and I have felt it even though I live several thousand miles away. David Cameron resigns from office claiming a legacy that no one else sees or believes: he was a good politician because he lies a lot, a necessary attribute that people say politicians need to be successful today, but it is one of the reasons why people feel so disillusioned by politics and why the millions given two fingers to the political elite. Those at the controls of austerity did not have the life experience nor the know how to understand the damage they were causing. They kept crossing the line thinking they would get away with it, not listening to people and dismantling the welfare state and NHS as though it was a barrel of laughs (just look at Jeremy Hunt’s smirk). The EU has been a scapegoat for British anger. Very mis-directed, I feel, and a case of lashing out, a lot like when a child does during a temper and says it doesn’t want something when it so, so needs it.

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The Brexit debate was one of the most nasty I have seen. Lies and misinformation was thrown at it in a similar mudsling that we saw in the Scottish referendum and the last general election, which makes British politics a synonym of “shit” and makes people disinterested in voting. Arguably the best defence for Remain came from former footballer, John Barnes, who only came into the debate after Michael Gove dragged him in by, what seems to me, accidentally on purpose incorrectly mentioning his name as a supporter of Brexit.

Labour should not escape fault. Less than a year ago I was so excited at the prospect of having Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Now I question him on leadership skills and whether he can really cut it. He often let his voice be drowned out in the mass media, and his refusal to take to the stage with Cameron (yes Jez, I don’t like the pig abusing, pug-faced tax cheat either, but . . .) in an act of solidarity against Brexit, it consequently made the Brexit brand stronger. At the end of it, it is such a shame that Jo Cox lost her life valiantly fighting for unity and immigration. For me she was murdered by one the darkest, frightening corners of Brexit.

In the UK, the EU has received bad press for years. It has felt as though it has been governed by strange people in far off places, and its handling of Greece (especially Merkel) did not bask itself in glory.

However, the more positive aspects have been ignored in place of another rhetoric: immigration, paranoia and hate. What will happen to places like Cornwall and parts of Wales and Northern Ireland which have received millions to billions of pounds in EU funding, and workers rights, human rights, refugees, Britons who have settled across the EU, nobody knows. There are many other great aspects of the EU that I am sure I’m leaving out due to innocent ignorance. Scotland wants a second referendum and Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland wants a look at the borders. This could be a very ugly can of worms about to open. It was a big risk to vote out and people have decided to take that.

I have to be honest, I am very bi-polar about the Brexit voters. I believe they mostly voted out of anger, as indicated above. But how I feel about them swings like a pendelum between anger and empathy.

Anger

You have to understand that, in a country like Honduras where everyone calls you a gringo, you have to show your patriotism and fight extra valiantly to prove to people you are not. “You’re the same as a gringo, though“. Cue very red, furious face. “No, I am not, neither are Britons. We have our own culture and our own ways. We are not the same as Americans, especially stupid Americans.” Yet, now, I really do have to ask myself that question. Do we British deserve to be lumped with stupid Americans? We Brits turned our noses up at them like the rest of the world when the voted a Bush into the White House (three times was it?). And as the world contemplates what will happen if Donald Trump gets into power, I don’t think us Brits can criticize too much.

Empathy

The Brexit was mainly headed by right-wing Tory members (Bris Johnson) and UKIP (Nigel Farage), as well as far right groups. Except, despite what I said above I don’t think the Brexit voters are necessarily voters of those aforementioned parties and I think it would be wrong of us to assume they are. Very misinformed and disillusioned maybe. Sunderland is traditionally an old Labour voting area. I am surprised by it, but I don’t think they are all stupid nor racist.
These areas were abandoned not just Tories but New Labour. One has to understand where they are coming from. Industries and jobs have disappeared not because of immigrants, but politicians selling them off. As I say, this is a lash out. Anger. Good riddance Cameron; good luck on the pig farms, kind of thing.

I am frustrated that they have, in my superior opinion, made a terrible decision. There will be a lot of “told you so’s” from the Remain supporters in the coming years. There has been one in the space of 24 hours with the pound sterling going into freefall. Cameron was a shit, but now you have the real nasty side of the Tories in power, and I can’t see Labour reclaiming voters from UKIP. Farage has the charm to keep them (Hitler was also charming, they say: just saying).

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What will happen to the EU now is anyone’s guess. But I don’t feel we Brits will have the prestige we have enjoyed since the Olympics. That feels a long time ago.

The UK is now a much smaller place.


England in the next round

Dear readers,

When England was drawn into a group with Russia, Wales and Slovakia, I must admit, and I don’t think I was alone, I was rubbing my hands with glee. To be fair, I think we England fans had a right to be. A 100% record in the qualifiers, a nice brand of football and a wave goodbye (with a large pinch of good riddance) to the last of England’s golden generation which promised so much but returned with zilch. There was a reason to feel good as an England fan, especially after we limped out of the World Cup and we were now in a group which had no any other powerhouses. There was a thought that we could sail this group.

But no.

A draw with Russia, the worst team in the tournament, an injury time win against Wales and a 0-0 draw with Slovakia meant we finished second, which could have left us facing Portugal, who knocked England out twice out of major tournaments a decade ago, one of which saw Wayne Rooney being sent off for squelching Ricardo Carvalho’s testicles into the turf and his Manchester United team-mate Ronaldo showing his true friendship and loyalty by bellowing out Rooney’s stamping sins to the referee (yes Ronaldo, there’s a reason why people think you’re an imbecile, in fact there are a few, and most of them don’t actually stem from jealousy). We actually have Iceland. On paper, it seems favourable. In reality, not so much. Ask Holland! This small island in the middle of the Atlantic with a population the size of a small city in the UK knocked out the men who invented Total Football in the qualifiers, beating them home and away. They are no pushovers, as Mr Cristiano “dodgy eyebrows” Ronaldo also found out.

The thing about being an England fan is you can kind of see why people think we’re arrogant. A fantastic example is the 1998 obnoxious fan-anthem, “Vindaloo“, by Fat Les, which contains the chorus, “We’re gon-na score one more than YOU. ENG-LAND.” Yes, I know, not exactly lyrics you would expect from a country that boasts William Shakespeare and John Lennon. Underlying this though, we had no right to think that Group B was going to be easy, despite our dominance in the games, and it gives opposition that ounce of motivation to prove a point and laugh in our faces. We got through, just, finishing behind a team which in my last article about Euro 2016 which I, er, referred to rather arrogantly as a little annoying dog. Wales. From one particular Welshman I received the following, amusing meme:

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Then again, I think had Germany, France, Spain or Italy been in England’s group, they too would have fancied their chances. It just goes to show how distant the England team is from the real creme-de-la-creme of Europe. Are we England fans living in a funny fantasy land with a too high opinion of ourselves? Obviously, not all of us are arrogant. Many of us are actually quite humble. We know what the team can achieve, but we also know rarely does it do it. Every now and then we thrash a team or beat a good team in a friendly, kind of a one hit wonder, and then we flop in major tournaments.

Being an England fan is a right mixed bag, and so are the fans. As stated above, we have an arrogance, a self-righteousness, but it is more blind hope than arrogance on many occasions (the same could be said with many British opinions regarding the EU, especially the deluded Brexit campaigners). The expectation created in the media makes us feel euphoria after a win and huge crushing come downs after a loss, which makes supporting England very emotionally hard. Maybe it’s karma for our arrogance. Or maybe violence.

As well as being seen as the creators of football, all over the world the English are also very well known for being the birthplace of hooliganism”; a word that has entered the Spanish dictionary with fingers pointed directly at us. To most Brits, it is deeply embarrassing. Unfortunately it seems to have reared its ugly head during the early days of the cup in Marseille. Hot sun and lots of beer does bizarre things to a British mind at the best of times, especially when it feels excited or patriotic about a team playing a sport that they feel they created with their very own mits. It may have even been provoked in some quarters. But taunting the police? People who were petrified of terrorist attacks before the tournament now have to deal with drunken Englishman? Not our proudest moment. Another thing I abhor is booing the opposition’s national anthem, like what happened against Russia. It’s not hooliganism exactly, but a very ugly trait of xenophobia that is being broadcasted around the world, and we’re the mugs doing it. Hondurans ask me about hooliganism and I always say that I have never witnessed any violence in or around an English stadium (ironically I have in Spain, Brazil and Honduras from the barras bravas and Ultras groups. Many fans here and in Spain claim it’s passion and an expression of loyalty. I tell them it’s una gran paja – bullshit – it’s just looking to cause trouble). Saying that, I did once see a fight between two Birmingham supporters arguing about the formation in a game against Bolton Wanderers. The Argentine friend accompanying me that day thought it was like being at the circus. Back to the point though, I’d come to the opinion that hooliganism had largely been eradicated in England. Obviously not. A gift to the world that it would rather do without.

Roy Hodgson

On the most part, I think he has done a decent job. He was thrown into the job in 2012, after Fabio Capello quit over the John Terry saga, although most of us knew it was Capello had grown bored with the job and didn’t want his reputation further tarnished with failure in that European Championship. Hodgson entered the role as a rather unpopular choice in the mass media; they preferred Harry Redknapp. Seen as conservative and boring, Hodgson got the team together just weeks before the tournament and they played maybe not the most beautiful brand of football, but introducing a couple of much needed young talents. The World Cup two years ago was a disaster but, again, he was developing a new team. Now he is here, winning all the qualifiers, bring fresh talent through with a mouth-watering frontline at a time when the English league is heaped with 65% of foreigners, creating the St George’s footballing complex to bring together more talent, and playing an exciting brand of football none of the recent former England managers were able to create…..yet still he gets no credit.

It is an impossible job. Every armchair with an England fan sat in it is being weighed down to near collapse by the sheer criticism thrown at the coach, let alone the pundits and so called experts in the mass media, pointing out what they claim is a great incompetence. I would hate it. While I raised an eyebrow at a couple of names in the squad, sicknote Wilshire being one, I thought it was a brave selection of players picked out of a relatively small pool of players thanks to the Premier League refusing to put a cap on foreign players. I also bellowed at the television when he didn’t substitute Sterling and Kane quick enough against Russia. People found it very difficult to give Hodgson for the Wales subs that won England the game, but I had a degree of empathy for him regarding the six changes for the Slovakia game (I probably would have made seven and brought Barkley on for Lallana). Even if he had selected the same team, I think it would have finished 0-0. Slovakia played with a ten man defence and England could have played all day long and still not scored. The fact is, Slovakia’s game plan was better than England’s. They withstood the pressure and knew England had no plan B. That’s the criticism I level at Hodgson. Why not change the formation? Why not lay off the pressure and allow Slovakia to play, then hit them on the counter? The problem is, teams will have learned how to play against England, and now the knock out stages are upon us, they know we are not the best penalty takers in the world.

There are now five days of waiting before the Iceland game. It is a chance for the players to regroup and start figuring out new strategies. So far, the tournament has been a little dull. The big guns have been holding back somewhat, but it is fantastic to see smaller teams like Wales, Iceland and Northern Ireland get through the groups. I’m not sure I agree with the three team qualification in the group stage. I feel it has allowed teams like Slovakia to play for the point and sit back and defend. Hopefully now the tournament will get a bit more exciting as teams know there is more to play for.

Come on England!!


The morning I met Carlo Costly

Dear readers,

They call him “El Toro”. He stands as the beacon of Honduran football. The scorer of Honduras’s only goal in the 2014 World Cup when he barged through a tight Ecuardorian defence and boshed la pelota in the bottom left hand corner (cue tears from him and another eight million Hondurans), the first since 1982. Famed for chewing a little white straw while he plays, his cheeky grin and throwing his weight around on the pitch. An ex-Birmingham City player to boot. The closest thing to Honduran royalty. President Juan Orlando Hernandez is merely a crusty, grey pube compared to this monarch. He is Carlo Costly. Sorry. Let me re-phrase that: King Carlo Costly.

And I met him yesterday. Look. Below there’s proof.

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Highly unexpected of course. I just went to run at Villa Olimpica, which sits less than a kilometre from where I live in Residencial Maya. I went for my normal jog (stroll) during public open hours at the athletics track along with a few dozen sweaty Hondurans. It’s best in the morning before the heat becomes unbearable. My team Motagua are known to train there and I have seen players stretching and running on the odd occasion. I try to run alongside them while they’re on a light run but I end up choking and grasping for air after about 25 metres, reminding me why I’m not a footballer and why Team GB might be turning me down for the Rio Olimpics this summer.

Yesterday though, on entering the athletics area, I noted more commotion and a sense of excitement in the air. The media was there with many men in red, blue and white shirts with Coca Cola logo splashed across their chests. Yes, los gatitos (the kittens) were here, although they call themselves El Leon (surely, you do not need me to translate that). Olimpia, who I write about often, are Honduras’s answer to Manchester United, a team whose fans I enjoy making disrespectful comments to, and they were there doing pre-season training.

I started on the track with a big grin on my digit, a remainder of England’s injury time victory over Wales the day before in Euro 2016. The joy of seeing Gareth Bale chew on his own words as the England players and fans hysterically celebrated, apparently most inferior to this incredible Welsh passion he keeps going on about (I’m still sniggering). I must say though, it’s strange how many Welsh fans come out of the woodwork in a far off country like Honduras when they learn that one is an Englishman, but it does give me a little giggle to see their confused faces when I call them sheep-shagging Taffies. It is true; patriotism can bring out the most disrespectful xenophobia, bordering racism, within us. Just look at Britain First.

Back to Costly. I saw the players doing laps. So gigantic compared to the rest of us. There. In the middle. Was Costly. You notice him straight away. Towering over everyone. An aura of power and a focal point among colleagues. A gold chain visibly bouncing off his collarbone as he ran. My gosh, my in-depth description sounds as though I might have a Carlo Costly man crush. Saying that though, despite the rife homophobia here, I think most Honduran men do.

I told Pamela via Whatsapp that Olimpia was training at Villa Olimpica and Costly had just passed me. She told me to take a picture. However, due to their pace, the best I could do were blurred images.

I suppose by a journalist’s nature, one must be a little opportunistic. My eyes were bulging out their sockets, spying out for King Costly. About 10 minutes later, there he was, strolling on the other side of the track. It inspired me to sprint 200 metres at manic Usain Bolt speed, like my life depended on it, as very uncool as you like, just to catch up with him. When I was drawing near to him, the rumours people say about him was entering my conscious, that he’s picaro (cheeky). What on earth was I going to say to him? Well, once I did draw level, out of breath, the transcript is below (I remember every word like a professional stalker):

Me: Carlo Costly?

CC: Yes?

Me: Mucho gusto. Nick Rogers.

(We shake hands and he’s smiling bemused).

Me: It’s an honour to meet you. I am a big fan of yours.

CC: Of me? Thank you.

Me: I’m a Cat-chele – English Honduran – so when you scored the goal at the world cup, I was extremely proud. I wrote a blog article about you.

CC: Thank you.

Me: You also played for my team in England, Birmingham City.

CC: Wow. Birmingham. Yes. It was short. But it was good. I liked Birmingham. It’s a nice place.

Me: Thank you. I’m from the city. I’ve always been interested in players from Latin America, so I was dead excited to have you and Palacios at Birmingham.

CC: Of course. And Maynor Figueroa.

Me: No. He went to Wigan Athletic.

CC: Of course. With Henry Thomas.

Me: Yes. Like mini-Honduras in Wigan.

(Costly laughs. Yes. Costly actually laughs at MY joke. I am so excited at this point that I squeak like a little girl).

CC: How long have you been in Honduras?

Me: Five years. I originally came here to volunteer in Casa Alianza.

CC: Oh yes. With the kids. I had a couple of friends who stayed there a long time ago. It’s very good.

Me: Indeed. I then met a girl who became my wife.

CC: You like the girls here, right?

Costly is smiling that picaro smile.

Me: They are beautiful. Very beautiful.

CC: I like the girls in England. White, but so beautiful.

Me: Can I have a photo, please?

CC: Of course.

Me: You might have to lower yourself. You’re much bigger than me.

(Costly laughs. It wasn’t a joke, though. He is literally gigantic).

(Cue selfie photo).

Me: I have to be honest, I support Motagua. So you have made me suffer a few times.

(Costly laughs again. Again, not really a joke. Elis and Costly double-handedly destroyed Motagua back in April).

CC: They’re always good games, for us.

(I laugh at his joke. Kind of. He’s heading back to join his team mates. I notice him walking slowly).

Me: Are you injured?

CC: No. Just getting fit for next season.

(I hold out my hand for it to shake. He shakes my hand. Again. I’ve not washed it since).

Me: Well, Carlo. It was a pleasure to meet you. I wish all the best for next season and the games with Honduras.

CC: Thank you. Good luck to you too.

Me: Thank you. Bye.

CC: Bye.

That was it. To say it made my day is an understatement. I was in awe. I look back and I am proud that I touched base on profound topics very close to my heart: football, women and Birmingham.

Yes.

This was the morning I met Carlo Costly.


Secrets of Forbidden Love by Cándida R. DeVito

Dear readers,

Yes, the title of this blog update is a book. Yes, I reading it. But no, it’s not trashy women’s erotica. However, it is one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read.

I picked up the book in Guaymura; a Honduran publishing house and book shop in the centre of Tegucigalpa. I can’t remember when, but I know I bought it to provide me with information for my own writing about Honduras. As you can see, the title is as naff, and the cover is a shade of pale pink that doesn’t do the book justice at alland would probably have even a little girl barfing over a tea cup set. In fact, I was hovering around the bookshop for about 20 minutes wondering whether to buy it, not because I wasn’t intrigued by it’s synopsis about a lady in Honduras shacking up with a gringo Priest, but because I didn’t want to be seen dead exchanging well earned money for this book with a ridiculous cover by the lady at the cashier, a thickset woman, machista, and who looked like she would beat me all day in an arm-wrestle. I still feel a bit embarrassed walking out the house with it, especially in a country where machismo is rife.

However, we all know about the cliché about not judging a book by its cover.

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It is not the best written book in world. There are lots of abundant sentences and clichéd sentimentality which I hear everyday from many middle-aged Honduran women. The pace and flow of the writing is not expert; plotting her life in a strange chronological order that leaves you wondering where you are in her life. She’s so damning about people who have mistreated her, but then quickly changes her attitude by being best friends on the next page, which makes her seem either bipolar and absurdly forgiving.

However, despite the style of writing, title and front cover, it is very engaging. It is an autobiography of a Catholic lady from Las Limas, a rural town in Olancho, Honduras, who suffered domestic violence, discrimination and sexism throughout her youth. She falls in love with a Priest and they end up marrying, moving to Boston, US, and having a family. It’s certainly some life she’s had, and I’m gripped, even though you can foresee events happening a mile away.

One of the reasons I like it is that Cándida seems a very sweet, resilient person. This makes me feel guilty about the criticism I wrote above. It’s quite a strange thing to like about a book, but I don’t know how else to define it. You build a respect for her humble naivety and perseverance. The devil on my shoulder tells me that I couldn’t care less about the tales she recounts, but there is that salt of the earth way of thinking she possesses which I identify with and have witnessed in small towns throughout Honduras. Maybe it’s something to do with the traditions and religious customs that people must abide by to stay out of reach of the town’s gossip. There lies a fear of God that I don’t understand nor agree with myself, and she goes into depth about the shame and guilt being in love with a priest and the persecution dished out by the town’s people and members of the church which seemingly scarred her for life. Idle or vicious gossip plagues most little towns around the world. In Honduras, people love it, quite simply because they love to talk.

I like her description about everyday life in a rural Honduran town. Despite the gossip described above, people in towns are very warm and caring, inviting you into their houses and very curious. She goes into depth about social classes and the conservatism of growing up their in the 1960s. It reminds me of Minas de Oro, Tatumbla and Pespire. She also tells of the cultural clashes she faced when she left for Boston and the Priests who tried to bribe her to make her beloved return to Priesthood.

Like stated above, this isn’t the best book in the world, though it seems I’m not the only one to be captivated by this book. It was picked up by The New York Times and she was interviewed by quite a few Latino magazines when it was published. If you can look past the cover, you will find an interesting insight into Honduran rural culture. And you can find it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1463328052?fp=1&pc_redir=T1


England vs Russia

Dear readers,

Honduran friend: It must feel terrible being an England fan.

Me: About as terrible as supporting Honduras.

Honduran friend: No. Seriously. You have great teams but you never get it together. With Honduras, we play well only when we need to. With England, what happens? Why save your best performances for qualifiers and friendly games? Why?

Me: If only I knew . . .

This is the conversation I had with someone two years ago during England’s disastrous World Cup in Brazil. However, this statement still very much applies today.

On Saturday England drew with a Russian team that was delightfully sitting on the plate like a steaming odalyi waiting to be gobbled up by 11 red-faced Englishmen. I had read that Russia’s star players were injured with the only danger coming from a big lad who was good at heading. The very youthful English strikers should have been running rings around their aging defence and then snigger in Putin’s passionateless face.

However, what should have been and what actually happens are two different things when it comes to the England national team. Second guessing is painful. With England, however, it’s just bloody aggravating.

For all of England’s dominance, huffing and puffing and slick passing, not to forget Raheem Sterling’s mindless runs, we couldn’t defend a simple cross to the aforementioned big lad up front. Their attack for the majority of the game was as toothless as Shane MacGowan’s mouth. Any professional team would have killed the game in the first half. No disrespect to Slovakia, but their 2-1 victory today against the Russians really put into perspective how dire England’s result was. But again, it seems, England just can’t get it together when the big tournaments come along.

Some might think that I am being a little harsh. It’s a young team which has suddenly learned the art of possession and keeping the ball (eight years after Spain did in their 2008 Euro triumph). Going into the tournament, everyone believed that the central defence was to be England’s Achilles heel and the offence to carry us through (Roy Hodgson picked five strikers). However, bar the last few seconds, it was defence that proved solid and the attack that looked as blunt as a three old’s crayon. Surely, having a five-man midfield, at least one should be able to provide a decent final ball, but no. Harry Kane was doing a “Lampard” by magically disappearing from the game as soon as he puts on an England shirt. England can even count themselves lucky; the Honduran commentator pointed out the free-kick England scored from should have been indirect. In other word’s, Dier’s goal shouldn’t have counted.
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I have faith in Roy Hodgson. He has introduced a lot of young talent and taught the team to morph formations depending on what’s happening in the game. It worked well in the qualifiers and there seems to be a more cultured look about the team, sometimes fluid, sometimes leggy, but it goes against Hodgson’s common critics that he is conservative. I also commend him for putting the final nail in the coffin of England’s golden generation (although it sometimes looked more like gold plated candy floss), although it was kind of forced on him when Gerrard and Lampard retired from international football (two so-called world-class players that coaches spent more than a decade learning that they were bloody hopeless at playing together).

What really grates me about Hodgson though his failure to make the right substitutions at the right time. How is it most supporters can see that a certain player is needed in the game but the coach seems completely bleedin’ blind to it? Against an aging Russian defence and a blunted England attack, there was speed and pace needed. There were three strikers on the bench known for just that. And then on comes James Milner!! Now, I know I’m not the most qualified person to comment, but please, see common sense.

Tomorrow England play Wales, which is rightly said not like a normal European game. This is a derby that if Wales win, fans will be shouting about it for the next 10 years. If England win, just 10 minutes and a sigh of relief we didn’t lose to our annoying little brother. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased Wales is there and the players seem to be enjoying the moment by taunting the English team and British media that the Welsh are more passionate and have a better team. However, these mind games could ultimately return to nip them on their red dragon backside when England come out fired up to make their own point, make amends for last week and teach that annoying little brother a lesson. For me, and rather typically and arrogantly English, Wales reminds me of an angry little dog rather than a big red dragon, that’s been let off the leash and keeps nipping at your ankles. It’s dangerous little jaws come in the form of Bale and Ramsay, which should be dealt with with a strong muzzle. England, on the other hand, is a dopey Labrador which would be hopeless against a fierce German Shepard but strong enough to put a little dog to sleep with one firm bite.

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I guess we will find out tomorrow.

In terms of England’s deeper complexities, I think finding a peaceful solution to the Gaza Strip is more likely. Politically and football wise, I just hope the UK teams don’t leave Europe i.e. in shame.