I don't particularly wish to talk about football today after seeing my team lose the Carling Cup final on penalties yesterday. If someone really, really *wants* to talk to me about football today they will be dealt that expressive shrug and non-committal grunt that the french manage to sum up in the word 'bof'.
Lots of people have seen that shrug today. Bastards.
Anyway, to think of happier times let me relate to you the tale of the funniest thing I ever saw at a football match - if you don't count the five-way mascot brawl at half time during a game at my local(ish) team Bristol City.
You can read all about that here under the heading 'The Wolf and the Pigs - a Modern Tale'. There's even a link to a video of it should you doubt my veracity.
No, while this story also occurred at Ashton Gate (the home ground of Bristol City), it doesn't involve anyone dressed up as a pig. It happened while I was still at university, back in the distant past known as 'the mid-90s'. Someone had told a group of us that Bristol City were organising a sporting quiz competition. Being experienced quizzers (i.e. smart-arsed gits), five of us headed down to try and win some goodies.
Turnout was low so we were split into two teams.
My team of two finished second to the rest of our group by 8 points. We were over 100 points ahead of third place. Sadly, all we won were about 45 tickets to Bristol City home games - a team none of us supported.
It was at one of these free games that I got to see my first glimpse of Junior Agogo, which contrary to first impressions wasn't a board game for kids but was a new signing at the Gate. Junior was one of those pacey, tricksy wingers that are too good for the lower reaches of football but simply not good enough to make the big-time. He was also tiny. Weeeeeeeeeenie, in fact.
Seeing as Bristol City were not in the top division at the time the game was fairly devoid of quality until one of the big lulking centre-halves looked up, saw Junior starting a lightning break down the right - little legs pumping for all their worth - and launched it forward.
'Launched' is the correct term. This ball went up more than along. It went up so far that the roof of the stand obscured our view. It went up so far that no-one in the ground could see it anymore. This included Junior, who'd clearly been looking where he was running when the ball was kicked. As he ran along (on the other side of the pitch to us) he started frantically looking over both shoulders to try and see where the ball had got to, slowing to a jog and then a walk as he realised it wasn't coming in his direction. Finally he stopped with hands on hips in what is known as the 'double tea-pot' position of slight miffedness.
Then the ball came in to view. Briefly. Like a meteor descended from the heavens, like a thunderbolt thrown by a vengeful weather god, like a sodding great lump of leather travelling at subsonic speeds, the ball dropped from the sky in a flash.
Onto Junior's head.
We all heard the blow. We all heard the collective gasp as Junior crumpled to the ground. We all heard the sound of 15,000 people absolutely howling with laughter, home and away fans alike. I've never again been in a situation where strangers were hugging each other with tears of joy streaming down their faces. The laughter died a little as we realised he was unconscious and had to be revived with smelling salts, but when he staggered upright, took two steps and fell over again, the volume picked up again.
The game was forgotten. I couldn't even tell you who won. But I'll never forget the sight of Junior Agogo's face when the ball hit him. And I'll still giggle every single time....