The Italian job

“It’s amazing how interested they get when there’s a few punt involved,” my Mum said to my Dad (showing her age).

The two of them were having a good laugh at my expense, as they do whenever the opportunity presents itself. Today’s opportunity was my uncharacteristic embrace of the Euros and soccer-spectatorship.

It was only a brief embrace – it started around 8pm and it definitely won’t last until midnight because Belgium’s bowing out of the competition at the quarter-finals stage means all bets – or all my bets, at least – are off.

It was fate and a fiver that brought me and Belgium’s soccer team together tonight. I drew the team in a sweepstakes competition at work, which involved me paying a fiver ‘for the craic.’ It wasn’t a very high risk payout so I went for it, all in.

Drawing Belgium, my better informed colleagues informed me, was good because Belgium are good at soccer. Well that’s good, I thought, I won’t pay them any attention for fear I might jinx them.

But I had to watch the quarter-finals didn’t I? The television was on and I stretched in front of it, sealing Belgium’s fate and waving farewell to my fiver.

The game progressed and those Italian feckers got their goals, and some lad from Belgium also got one – when I wasn’t paying attention incidentally – although that could have been about 85% of the game so they can’t use that excuse.

I began to get invested in the game-play. (Game-play is an expression I can imagine Eamon Dunphy coming out with in his lovvaly broad Dubbalin brogue). And not just financially.

The language got a bit colourful. Numerous four-letter words were associated with the Italian people, who on mature reflection, are a fine bunch who have contributed so much to the world like pasta, pizza, coffee, fashion, Leonardo DaVinci and those Renaissance fellas, myths, flirting, opera, Dolmio days, and who could forget bunga-bunga.

(What has Belgium done? Colonised the Congo and Rwanda, chips with mayonnaise, posh chocolate, the European Parliament. Meh.)

Thoughts of these Italian greats didn’t dissuade me from shouting abuse at the Italian goalie who delayed his kick outs stalling for the final whistle to blow. The same goalie, who I’d been feeling sorry for a few minutes earlier when he’d taken an elbow to the ribs. In my defence, I thought he was the Belgian goalie and was showing some solidarity.

(How are you supposed to know which end is which? It’s all the same field to me.)

Anyway, I was quickly disabused of any notion I was to feel sorry for this Italian diving goalie when the camera showed the Italian manager, a neat man with a two-tone badger hair-do, who looks like a Tory who cheats on his wife, acting worried.

It was all over then, a few seconds later. I’ll never forget my time in the trenches with Lukaku (me auld flower), Doku, and the other one who looks like Prince Harry. I wish them well. I still don’t know which one the goalie was, but I bear him no ill will despite the fact his two mistakes cost me a fiver and my reputation, which is only a little bit cheaper.

Allez les Belges! Our Dolmio day will have to wait.