Heckling at Euro 2012 | God save our dignity

Wayne Flask followed Italy vs England and then coerced Cedric Vella into filming the people watching it.

Half-time beer dehydration. Photo: Malicia Dabrowicz
Half-time beer dehydration. Photo: Malicia Dabrowicz

Tonight I'm reminded why I hate events like St Patrick's Day. It's the kind of day where many Maltese with scant knowledge of Irish culture and traditions wear a green (Fred Perry?) tee and maraud around the Spinola area drinking themselves stupid. Wonder what percentage of those flooding the streets are Irish or are of Irish descent: a sea of green swearing in Maltese and pidgin English, as if they were intruding on Donnelly and Connelly's own day. It's hardly like us Maltese ever invite the Irish community to the feast of the patron saint.

For the record, I love my pint of Irish stout every Friday but I make it a point not to make my presence felt.

See, I've always had against celebrating other people's feasts with other people's flags, especially as this really a front for the oft trumpeted need for mass binge drinking. As if bingeing were the raison d'etre for so many.

I promised I'd carry out my little provocation and duly stuck to my word.

In a moment of impudence I strode along the bridge that connects the St Julians parish to the other side of the valley with the Maltese flag clasped in my right fist. I waved it in front of the thousands who cluttered Tigulio for Italy vs England. Some clapped, others, unbelievably, booed.

Even though my missives would never overcome the decibels of obnoxious dance music pummelling the area, I couldn't help insulting these louts from the bottom of my heart. For, while you're perfectly (!) justified if you want to carry someone else's flag for the night, you ought to respect your own. How ironic, then, if you spend much of your day on message boards condemning immigrant arrivals to the tune of ye olde saying that "Malta is ours not theirs" and all this regurgitated patriotic blab, then choose to boo Malta the moment Italy and England take the stage.

I've a thousand insults for you, but little time to write this. So, may your bigoted hypocrisy be your ticket to a hell made of used cooking oil.

***

What to say of the match itself?

It ended on penalties: Hate to say I told you so.

But let's be frank here, Italy dominated England. The British papers conceded that much; I was disappointed in Roy Hodgson who took ages to discover a good part of the tactical key to the game (in the improbable form of Andy Carroll) but fielded a side whose feet seemed glued to the ground, held afloat by the bravery of Lescott and the eternal flame that is Steven Gerrard.

Italy's Pirlo was left unchecked for most of the match, dispensing short and long balls in all directions as Italy's "striker" partnership did the very best to cock up every single opportunity that presented itself. The azzurri looked dangerous from the wings, for once, and I'm sure Prandelli's choice of short/lazy strikers will return to haunt him in the near future.

Throughout the match I could sense the morale of the white and red brigade dwindling as Italy knocked relentlessly, one chance after the other, squandering the impossible. Nocerino's header and disallowed goal had everyone yelling for different reasons.

Someone in front of us farted spectacularly. I can still breathe the smell of tension. His family must have had a tough night.

***

For this series of features about Euro 2012, I promised MaltaToday I'd come up with a videoblog detailing the shenanigans in the Spinola area throughout the night (their newsroom, again, busy worrying about some trifle Mr White Linen Trousers now?)

As I write, my favourite partner in crime Cedric Vella is putting together footage from what can easily be described as a memorable night.

For a good hour before the match there seemed to be no sign of tension, as people draped in flags seemed busier consuming alcohol. Meet all the stereotypes: an army of girls with very little interest or knowledge in football per se, some of which are too young to legally buy nail polish; groups of 6-8 men holding a pint and yelling gibberish; youths with painted faces doing their utmost to dance in front of the camera; others on the receiving end of fines for drinking outside the allowed spaces (whatever that may mean); bewildered foreigners still not quite sure what hit them. You'd forgive them for quickly looking up Malta's page on Wikipedia to find out if we're some protectorate split in half.

Our eardrums were bombarded by tragically off-key versions of Notte Magiche (one of Gianna Nannini's worst songs) and England 'Til I Die, airhorns, car horns, flares, shouting, and predictions of 2-1 to Italy or 2-1 to England. We sat through an interminable half time subjected to cigarette smoke and ubiquitous McDonalds' advertising which couldn't have been more disturbing had they injected the audio directly in our nervous system. We got abuse from a van driver even though we were perfectly within the constitutional right of walking on the bloody pedestrian crossing (abuse duly returned with interest).

Diamanti's penalty drew the line between apocalypse and apotheosis. The boys in blue (the police, I mean) did their humane best on the night: trying to halt celebrations would have been futile. The English crowd evaporated; the rest was a sea of blue, noise, traffic jams, the like. Minor scuffles were reported in some bars.

Watch this space: soon enough you'll see the night through our eyes thanks to one of Cedric Vella's able productions.

Wayne Flask blogs on www.wayneflask.com

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