columnist Chris Mackin takes a reflective look on international week and adds his worth to the 'boo, or not to boo' debate.
How was your international week then? Have a quiet one? See
the family? Fidget around eating a sandwich and checking your friends' recently
updated statues as a game of no interest to you flickered shyly on a television
that was on but which you weren't really watching?
Perhaps you took a more active role: maybe your loyalty to
your country is so vastly marked that you attended a pub armed with the
intention of watching and supporting England; maybe you stuck rigidly with the
game until your attention wandered somewhere around the thirty five minute mark
when you found yourself distracted by your company and the ‘Deal or no Deal'
There are reports, tentative but persistent, of football
fans who actually attend these matches and are, like, interested in them. They
rarely make themselves known, of course; like people who enjoy the music of
Kate Nash or heroin, they probably feel certain interests are best kept to
oneself, but they are apparently out there, ready to bore you via the medium of
a Talksport phone in on the problems with Gerrard and Lampard in midfield the
moment you're foolish enough to tune in your radio.
And it is these people under attack from Rio Ferdinand for
their booing of our little Ashley following his mistake in Saturday evening's
otherwise instantly forgettable win against Kazakhstan.
"Boo," they all said in unison, adding, "boo".
‘Boo'. What is that anyway? What does it even mean? I've
been in football crowds where it's started and abstained, not for any highly
principled moral reasoning which would have put my thinking in line with noted
academic Rio Ferdinand, but because I realised what a largely pointless
exercise it would be.
Not being six years old and in attendance at The Empire
watching ‘Aladdin' tends to lend one this sage perspective, but, as cited
earlier, these are England supporters we are discussing and, as such, we are
forced to tread carefully when making any grand assumptions regarding their
collective mental cogence.
First things first though, there must be ways of indicting
displeasure more effectively than ‘boo'. 'Boo' is barely a sound when you think
about: it's what your lips do when they've forgotten what it is they were just
about to say. Muddling and incomprehensible, and not what's needed if the
objective is to prevent otherwise careless defenders playing a loose back pass,
perhaps the message would be more effectively conveyed through the use of
annoying novelty ring tones.
Imagine: You are
twenty years old and rated as a ‘promising' winger (you probably play for Middlesbrough or Blackburn or something). Having made your full England debut earlier
in the year you and your ego feel slighted when called up for the under 21s and
refuse to show along, thus depriving Stuart Pearce and his team of young lions
your limited pace and general ineffectiveness.
Called back up for the full team the following March your
return is greeted, not by a Wembley crowd booing you in a mildly embarrassed fashion,
but by eighty thousand people, as one, lifting their mobiles and treating you
to Katy Perry's ‘I kissed a girl (and I liked it)' via the medium of small,
tinny and barely audible speakers.
An irritating hum, with the lyrics barely decipherable and the
melody last seen somewhere around Upton Park, the insidious aural effect would
be ten thousand times more effective than any twee pantomime booing.
For repeat offenders, or Joey Barton, perhaps there's scope
for further punishment. Perhaps
alongside playing the ring tone, members of the crowd could be selected to
explain, at punishing length, where they downloaded it from, as our hapless
star is forced to mask his irritation in favour of a weak smile and vague head
It would be wrong to limit vocal protestations to the
technophiles in crowd, though, and we must not be quick to dismiss the threat
of the ‘heavy breathing' technique, as perfected by the person who, due to
unforgiving alphabetic procedure, was placed next to you during every single
Kevin Keegan famously quit following a 1-0 defeat to Germany
and a sustained vocal barracking but imagine what we could do with a
strategically placed nose breather by the home dug out. At the earliest hint of a three at the back
experiment, our man would do his thing and we would be looking at a change of
management before you could say "Jesus, it's not hard: BREATHE THROUGH YOUR MOUTH".
Coughing too, there's still a place for that in the modern
game; especially that specific type of cough which sounds hacky and almost
deliberate, as if the person coughing could prevent it if only they wanted
Perhaps some may be tempted to combine their coughing with a
simultaneous under the breath exclaim of ‘tosser!' Be warned though: like a double step over by
the touchline this is a bit of showboating which should only be attempted by
the most skilled and confident in their craft as any slip-up makes you look
silly and reflects badly upon the rest of us all, struggling to channel our
contempt and being impeded by your spluttering.
Voicing discontent is a team game, after all, and we can scarcely avoid
any luxury players.
Whatever needs doing it needs doing quickly. Ukraine come to Wembley in April next year as
the World Cup campaign begins again and the last thing anybody wants is their
anthem being played to a backdrop of dim-witted booing. Not with all the viable alternatives to hand.