So let me introduce you to the Kochi bois. I was so glad to hear some Malayalam after like 2 weeks. The thirst for a syllable which no one else in the subcontinent can get their tongues around aka “ Pazham” is like a super- power down here, in this small slice of land born out of a misguided axe some hairy dude threw from the Himalayas. ( That’s the story of how our state got formed, better than the Baltics though).
So there was Bala. I knew him from the United fan circles in Kochi, Met him first in Chai Coffee and then in Kahawa ( Where we used to do our match screenings). CET’s finest. A lot of my CET ( Engineering college in Trivandrum) friends know him cause he was really good at basketball it seems. A really nice guy and a big England fan. And always has a spare smoke on him. Right now working with Ernest and Young.
Then there was Varun. Varun Desikan. Tam at heart, but Kochikaran legit. He moved to Kochi the same time I moved to Chennai. A big Brazil fan and also a hardcore vegetarian.( Which makes life difficult if you are travelling around Europe). He owns a business in Kochi and was one of the chosen ones who were fortunate enough to visit old Trafford the previous December. A great mate and the first person who got involved with the planning and ticketing process with me.
Every firm needs a Major ( Green street Hooligans) , but our firm has a Mayor. Yes, thats what we call him. I think his real name is Saddaquat. But he is the childish life of the bunch. He is married and has kids and is a proper family man. He is also a fan of England and was there to make sure the colours of MUSCK( Manchester United Supporters Club Kerala) was flying high.
Then there were the two chartered accountants. JK and Arjun. These guys were slightly closer to my age, by slightly I mean like 24 years old. I had used JK’s winter coat when I went to Kasol and we both loved two things the most. MUFC and KBFC( Kerala Blasters Football Club). Arjun was the quite guy of the lot, but when he did open his mouth something funny always came out. They also worked at E&Y.
There was one more mate, Ashok. I had just met him there and he was a Chelsea twat but also a chill dude.
So it was match day. England vs Belgium.
Bala had a spare England kit which he was kind enough to offer to me. Now I am full on geezer.
Ok, so throughout this article, you might come across new terminologies which are a byproduct of the Lad culture which English society and more specifically English football have come to embrace. How did I come to embrace this?
The culprit is an English bird named Judith. She unsuspiciously put these psychological cues in my head where I get drawn into this fan culture where disparaging your opponent is the most fun thing after having a few pints with the lads. ( I Got played Juds, guess we are even :p)
So, she taught me a lot of phrases and chants which sort of makes me a geezer( self-attested). A geezer is someone who is English, drunk, working class, and always trying to create a scene. Also loves supporting the 3 lions :p.
We are on the bus to the central square of the city. This is where things get exciting. It was like two armies setting up camp opposite to each other. Prepping their ranks for the big fight which was about to ensue. The English had laid claim to the marshes next to the Macdonalds. It was my first taste of travelling English fans. They are notorious for being a bit drunk and rowdy, but when your teams playing a world cup game, you have every right to be. Don’t you?
There were flags everywhere. From Crewe Alexandria to Everton to Nottingham. Every small club in England had their fans here with their club on the cross of St George. This was like they have invaded Kaliningrad. Mates had set up shop in an open air bar and were just enjoying the sun in the ground smoking a fag and drinking Russian beer with their shirts off.
If you cross the road and walk 50 meters West, you will see a burgeoning mass of red and black and yellow. The Belgians had taken over the central square, they were slightly more creative. They had dressed up as red devils and that Asterix dude from the comics. They even were dancing on the fountains. They had proper birds on their side unlike the English. I was revelling in this.
Two teams, two sets of fans and a hot day where you just feel like going around and talking to everyone and just get wasted. And that was the priority now. Get booze.
Since the English had come, getting booze was a rather a challenging proposition. The line for the beer had grown very long. But the primary prerequisite to becoming a geezer is getting drunk and I was willing to sacrifice any amount of time for that. So on the line, the English were very happy that a dude from India had come all the way to Russia to support their team. I even hugged a Man City fan( Something which under normal circumstances would be blasphemous,disgusting and unatural). They were kind of surprised I didn’t give a a fuck about cricket, being Indian. ( Proving one cultural stereotype wrong everyday since 97 :p).
Two beers down and a couple of smokes latter I was buzzing and so were the English fans. So I went to the bar that they had held siege. They were on the table chanting. This is what I live for. Chanting with the lads, I joined in and thanks to Juds, I knew a few of the chants too. It was rabid. We were singing about a homo-erotic relationship with the coach of England ( Looking back to where we first met……)to how the RAF shot down German bombers( There were 9 German bombers in the air…).
God save the queen.
While I was chanting with the lads in the bar. I met two blokes, who, over the course of the day would help me experience the “ authentic geezer experience”. Meet Courtney and Tom. Both from Nottingham, but from the polar opposite sides of it in terms of football ideology. Tom’s Nottingham Forrest and Court’s Notts county. But Court was wearing a Arsenal kit which, on a day like today was a bit of a bad omen :p.( They were kind enough to invite me to Nottingham to watch games there. Defo for the Euros lads, its time something came home)
They were really good lads and again, the support from their colonial cousin made them really interested. I showed them my stadium and my team (KBFC) and told them how football in India is moving in the right direction( maybe not at the required pace, but still motion is motion). And the moment of validation from geezers that I qualify to be one, just made my day.
Now we make plans to get mental. We make our way around the place, joining in on any shenanigans we can find. A Russian media house interviewed me during this time. They asked me what I thought of Russia. I told them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That this was one of the most awesome countries on earth and that the people are pure babes and I absolutely love this place. He asked me if I was concerned about my safety before I came. To which my answer was a yes. The western media had made Russia look like it was Grand theft Auto played by a 11 year old coke-head who was racist and also had constipation every alternate day of the week. Which was further from the truth than anything else. The main culprits are BBC and the SUN and since I was drunk, I think I explicitly told that both of them wankers can go and suck themselves off. ( If someone finds that, please share it with me.)
Then came the birds, I don’t know if I have extensively wrote about birds in the blog yet. But birds here ARE THE BEST IN THE WORLD.PERIOD. I know, this is my first visit abroad and all, but I don’t see how things can get any better from here. And these guys knew exactly what keys to turn with the birds. We were randomly approaching every fit bird we can find. It was so much fun, most of them didn’t speak English and most of them pointed at the ring on their fingers. It was so funny. We handed over the phone to a fit bird who was selling phone covers in the FIFA Merchandise store and wouldn’t take the phone back without her number. You should have seen her face become like a strawberry when she started blushing. It was insane.
We met other English fans, but club rivalries were sending still prevalent. Court’s Arsenal kit made sure that every Spurs fan had a passive aggressive vibe every time we met them, these weren’t the run of the mill footie fans. These guys had tattoos of their legends on their back and looked exactly like the dude from Green Street Hooligans who kills Pete. Scary but also, respects. These are the people who grew up supporting their club with the kind of loyalty that can be compared to substance addiction or even worse -religion. Then we found a crusader knight with a world cup trophy and we made sure we kissed it more than teenagers learning how to tongue. ( The trophy I mean)
Now it was like 2 hours before the game and the lads were going mental. One mate jumped off the roof of the bar to a group of even more drunk geezers hoping to catch him, then the chants got more and more loud as people were slowly making their way to the stadium. A women randomly comes and gifts Court and me some gifts. Kaliningrad was or still is Europes largest producer of Amber and the stuff is kinda expensive too. She gave me a flower sorta thing and gave Court a pyramid made of marble. Like I told ya, Russians were so happy we were here that they even gifted us stuff. I LOVE YOU RUSSIA.
Then we made our way into the McD to grab something to eat. Then guess what, all 3 of us are or were employees at some point of time at Mac. They were still working there and had their employee discount cards out. We made the cashiers so confused and it was so funny. I even read the name of the bird who was cashing – ALEXANDRA, it was written in Russian so brownie points for that. ( She gave a free catchup, what a babe (( In Europe, condiments are not free)) )
They said no discounts for McD employees outside Russia. Fuck.
So we had our food and was out of the joint on our way to shuttle buses which would take us to the game. We get into a bus chanting – “ Its coming home”. We were greeted( I’d say rather screamed back at ) by a rowdy group of Belgium fans like us. Now things get interesting.
To be continued………