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Football Fever – a letter from England.........Warren L. Riches · 劉慧蘭

  時序進入五、六月的梅雨季節,不僅台灣的雨下個不停,地球另一端的英國似乎也躲不過這春雨綿綿。每年五月由英國皇家園藝學會舉辦的Chelsea花展、六月份的溫布頓網球賽,都難逃大雨的干擾,溫文儒雅的英國人卻也習慣逆來順受。但今年平靜的空氣中隱隱嗅出了不安的因子,因為四年一度的世界杯足球錦標賽正如火如荼的展開,不論電視、平面媒體或是地鐵站裡,四處充斥著與足球相關的報導與廣告。想要知道英國人對足球到底有多狂熱?甚至連語言學校都可以趁此機會大賺一筆?千萬別錯過本期英文加油站為您準備的足球大餐!

Football fever
Spring is in the air again and throughout the UK flowers of all colours, shapes and sizes are in glorious full bloom. The British are obsessive gardeners and the highlight of the social calendar, the Chelsea Flower Show attended by Her Majesty the Queen has only just finished. Unfortunately flower show commentators were unable to put away their umbrellas as we have had the wettest May in over 20 years. This seems rather incongruous given that we are in the middle of an official drought and are not even allowed to water our prized gardens.

However there certainly isn’t that “spring is in the air” type of feeling where people suddenly become more cheery and positive after the long winter months. We should be excited at the changing of the season when all is fresh and new with the promise of summer just around the corner, strawberries and cream, Wimbledon, outdoor theatre and concerts, walking in the park. Instead all is a rather damp and miserable partly because of the rain but there are even darker clouds on the horizon and something menacing and all encroaching is almost upon us.

Yes, the sudden preponderance of cars bearing little St George flags sticking out of the windows signifies the sad fact that it is Football World Cup time again. There is no escaping from the football fever that is 

1. Incongruous (adj.) 不協調的; 有矛盾的
2. Menace (v.) 威脅、恐嚇
3. Encroach (v.) 侵入、侵占
4. Preponderance (n.) 優越
5. Hype (n.) 公開宣傳
6. Exponentially (adv.) 以指數方式
7. Metatarsal (n.) 中骨
8. Nauseating (adj.) 使人厭惡的
9. Concede (v.) 勉強承認
10. Spectacular (adj.) 壯觀的
11. Glee (n.) 快樂
12. Hooligan (n.) 流氓
13. Feign (v.) 假裝
14. Endorsement (n.) 背書
15. Emulate (v.) 模仿

gripping the nation and no matter which way you turn, there it is staring you right in the face. Every day this football hype seems to exponentially increase. I open my daily newspaper and the front-page news carries the story of some footballer or other that has hurt his precious foot! The whole nation, it seems, worried about his pathetic broken metatarsal. When I take the underground to work, huge great adverts promoting some product with football or footballers assault my senses.

On the television football is being used to advertise everything from beer, mobile phones, cereals, shoes to car tyres and at every nauseating opportunity. On the Internet you have MSN paying some of the best players in the world to help advertise products for companies. Not to mention the rubbish in my junk mail encouraging me to gamble on the football games or to create a virtual ‘dream team’ where I can win ‘thousands of pounds’. Many companies, the latest examples being Emirates airlines and Coca Cola have new multi-million dollar advertising campaigns using every media available and featuring football of course.

OK If pushed I can concede that it is good for the economy, as global advertising spending is growing faster than the economy as a whole, mostly because of the World Cup. Retailers are reporting spectacular increases in sales of high definition and digital TVs with which to watch the whole spectacle. Publishers are also rubbing their hands with glee as somewhere in the region of 500 new titles on the subject are ready to be printed in time for the World Cup. Although with titles ranging from “A Football Cookbook”, to “The Perfect Football Bride”, “How to Explain the World Through Football” to the blindingly obvious: “Headers Make You Stupid”, they are hardly going to advance the cultural landscape in any meaningful way.

Even language schools are reporting a profit as (surprisingly) some British fans have been rushing to learn German before the event. In many cases this is purely so that they can insult opposing fans in their own language. Singing the notorious ‘Ten German Bombers’ has always been a favourite with the football hooligan. Football fans appear reluctant to let the Germans forget the 2nd World War, the British government recently warned that goose-stepping and Hitler salutes in Germany will be punished with imprisonment. That may only encourage them. Language schools have taken a stand and stopped teaching the English to chant “the referee needs a guide dog” in German after complaints from the Referees’ union and from blind charities. In contrast the Germans, concerned about the invasion of fans from around the world have launched their friendliness campaign under the slogan: “Time to Make Friends”. The following day there were reports that 40,000 prostitutes were going to descend on the country to serve some of the 1.5 million sex-mad fans.

Whilst many companies and individuals are making large profits from the World Cup, employers and HR professionals have a genuine need for concern. This is because the World Cup signifies last-minute holiday requests or staff feigning illness one day and suffering hangovers the next. Up to 7 million employees may be off work during the World Cup. A recent poll found that 16% of male employees aged 18 to 29 admitting to ‘pulling a sickie’ for a major sporting event or to having previously called in sick due to match-related drinking the night before. The fans are not the only ones who behave badly. British Premier League footballers can expect to earn a basic salary of between £676,000 then rising to £899,500, this figure can be doubled by performance-related bonuses and then there are the sponsorship and endorsement fees on top of that.

But these ordinary working class boys suddenly rocketed to superstardom and super wealth don’t always tend to behave in the manner expected of someone in such a prominent social position. According to Martin Ward, deputy leader of the Secondary Heads Association, verbal abuse, cheating and violence among players are commonplace. Copycat behaviour of footballers by pupils made teaching "infinitely more difficult". Footballers behaving badly, children emulating the negative behaviour of their heroes, millions avoiding work to watch them and thereby damaging our economy. We have over 3000 fans that will have their passports taken away from them because they are considered too violent to be allowed to attend the matches in Germany. On top of all that we have a sort of uncontrolled commercial monster.

One could escape from it all, aware of the market for people that don’t like football, Sweden has recently started advertising holidays for “football widows” complete with glossy photographs of strong and handsome young men to lure women away for the summer. Better still I hear that last time that North Korea held the world cup (shared with the South) the public were not informed about it happening at all. Very tempting indeed however there is no denying that the games themselves will prove to be a grand spectacle and a gathering of some of the greatest athletes in the world is to be welcomed. As the sun has finally come out I will go back to trimming my roses and I may even watch a match or two if it gets interesting!

( W.L. Riches is an Englishman - librarian, academic, gardener and keen traveller, he has worked in several British universities both “old” and “new”)

                                                                          


 
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