The real-life tales of a football writer
A joy of six. What I’ve come across recently:
1. Huge adverts for the English Premier league around Africa’s biggest city, Cairo.
They feature Ronaldo, Lampard, Gerrard et al. British marketing men rightly boast of the Premier League being the most popular in the world, though it omits one of the key reasons for its status in much of Asia - it’s also the most trusted.
While games are bought in several major European leagues, the dirty practice occurs far less frequently in England. Gamblers like that.
2. Counterfeit Wigan Athletic shirts being the most popular English shirt in Egypt, thanks to their tardy forward Zaki.
3. A Bedouin youth wearing a decade old Manchester United shirt in Petra, Jordan (pictured). Like many of his peers, he bizarrely spoke English with an exaggerated cockney accent.
"Oi... this smells like a knock-off"
4. Raffish, nauseous grafters and taxi drivers. Egypt must be the worst place I’ve visited so far for aggressive men in bad shoes hawking tat and trying to rip you off.
I’d been in Sharm El Sheik (go to Barry Island or Butlins Pwellhi instead) for five minutes when a scruff approached us.
“Where you from?”
“Very good. Lovely jubley.”
“We don’t want to buy anything, thanks.”
He went onto introduce himself as an artist and said: “All I ask is that I give you my card please?”
Not wanting to be impolite, we said yes. Mistake.
A minute later we were in a shop being congratulated as the first customers of the day – on the boss’ son's first day in the company too! Would you believe the coincidence? The shop owner (the artist’s dad) looked at my fiancée.
“English women, the best in the world,” he said. “My wife is from Welwyn Garden City.”
“I’m Brazilian,” replied the better half.
“Brazilian second best! Please sit down and let me give you a wonderful gift for free.”
You end up becoming embroiled in an argument because you don’t want to buy a fake papyrus wallchart that looks like it has been drawn by the man who advises Stephen Ireland what colour car to buy.
"Allo me old china"
5. 10 minutes later, by a bookshop which didn’t sell books, a man approached selling British newspapers. I’d not seen one for a while and was interested. They all had their prices on the cover so I pulled the equivalent of £2 out.
“That’s not the price,” blagged the blagger. “That’s a code.”
“Is it really? So how much is the paper?”
He wanted £6.
“How much you pay,” he shouted aggressively as if I’d just informed him that I’d kidnapped his parents. “HOW MUCH YOU PAY?”
6. I met the pianist Christopher Schellhorn. He’s one of Britain’s best and hails from Doncaster, from where he studied at Chetham’s music school in Manchester and then Cambridge University.
Refreshingly, he had no interest in football. Given that my knowledge of tickling the ivories extended to a go on a Bontempi organ and attempting to play ‘When the Saints go marching in’ I could hardly talk shop with him.
Christopher took a taxi in Bombay for what should have been a straightforward 10-minute drive. The taxi stopped and the driver got out to see ‘a friend’ who owned a tailor’s shop.
He invited Christopher into the shop for a drink. Five minutes later he offered to measure him up and make him a hand stitched suit for $50 dollars. The pianist couldn’t believe the price and, while he didn’t need a suit, felt he couldn’t refuse one for $50.
He then spent 40 minutes being measured up, before the tailor told him to come back in four hours with the $500.
“But you said $50,” replied Christopher.
“$500,” raged the tailor. “Are you stupid? Who can make a suit for $50?”
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