Friday, November 18, 2011

The international language of football

You may have noticed that Paul's been doing the lion's share of the posting and updating recently - that's because I'm currently on belated honeymoon in South East Asia.

Thoughts of football have never been far from mind, though - the popularity of the English game attested by the number of knock-off Arsenal and Chelsea shirts we've seen, the number of scooters racing past bearing Man Utd stickers and badges, and (in a sign of the times) the number of Cambodians and Vietnamese professing to be supporters of tomorrow's opponents.

While converts to the Toon cause have been rather less apparent, we nevertheless appear to retain a surprisingly significant profile in the region. Ticket-checkers at the Angkor temples and tuk-tuk drivers in Cambodia recognised my shirt - this, I should add, in a country where TV ownership is minimal, most people seemingly exposed to it only at roadside cafes where every seat is directed towards a solitary small screen.

We're now in Hanoi, and last night settled down on dinky plastic chairs at a very non-Western street-corner "bia hoi" joint. Communication with the locals was enthusiastic but difficult, their English being very rudimentary and our Vietnamese non-existent, and consisted primarily of gesticulation at maps and the occasional thumbs up. When the subject of football came up (as inevitably it did), I mentioned I was a Newcastle fan. "Ah", grinned one of our companions, nodding. "Alan Shearer!"

That was enough encouragement for me to start trying to initiate a conversation about how Dreamboat could have elected to play for Vietnam, but not surprisingly that proved a step too far...

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