By Chris Brown
“Tasty”, “Fruity”, “ A proper mad tear-up” – D. Dyer (2004)
Honduras take us back to simpler times, when football was played in flickering black and white, when Arsenal’s line was led by Charles “Charlie” Charles (one of the legendary Charles brothers – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4CXY6TVBMc ) and the Continent began at Dover. When South and Central American games were invariably “Battles” and European commentators accordingly routinely “disgusted”. Why are we stepping back to yesteryear?
In July, 1969, Honduras played El Salvador in a World Cup qualifier in Mexico City. A neutral location being selected following the running street battles (think London, August 2011) which had erupted in the teams previous two encounters. Following a fiery contest, El Salvador ran out 3–2 winners before dissolving all diplomatic ties with their Central American neighbours. This 90 minute game of football, 22 men kicking a bag of wind around a dusty central American sweat-pit, precipitated a full-blown war. Said war became known as ‘la guerra del fútbol’, the Soccer War. The Soccer War lasted for a full 100 hours, the tequila having ran out around the 99 hour mark, and thus the war also became known as the ‘100 Hour War’.
Why am I telling you this? Well, yesterday in Porto Alegre, Honduras attempted to condense an audacious reconstruction of the 100 Hour War into 90 minutes. Honduras’s manager goes by the name of Luis Suarez so it should have come as little surprise that he was also a war-mongerer. One can only imagine his pre-match team talk… “Make it rain like ’69 out there boys” … “These Frenchies won’t like it up them”… “Don’t **** about out there, ******* ping ‘im!” etcetera etcetera
Suarez’s Arkan was one former Spurs bruiser, Wilson Palacios. What Wilson lacks in skill he attempts to make up for with raw aggression and a fondness for rolling on the floor (not laughing) following a foul in an attempt to get the oppo into the referee’s band books. He is also something of a unit. A ‘propa unit’ (https://www.amazon.com/TechCraft-SWD30-30-Inch-Panel-Hi-Boy/dp/B001BWXARG). Possessing a shoulder span which would make Shadow from Gladiators wince, Palacios is a fine specimen, all angles. Some say, he gorges on a diet of raw bear meat and granola. Which is ridiculous; he’d be dead within a week. But you get the point. As the teams emerged from the tunnel you could already see he had a ‘propa mad boat on’. With all the self-control of Ben Kingsley’s Don Logan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0z_Qqnq8pI8), he flew into challenges like a certifiable grade A nutter.
Paul Pogba felt the full force of Wilson’s emotion on more than one occasion. Following a series of assaults by WP on PP, matters reached a head when the chunky Honduran had not one but two studded digs at PP’s Bambi-like legs. PP had had enough. Pogba snapped and swung an errant leg in Wilson’s general direction. Wilson went down like Willem Dafoe in ‘Platoon’. Although, there was no ‘Adagio for Strings’ so he just looked like a big girl’s blouse. As me old ma used to say, “If you can’t take it, you shouldn’t give it out.” Both men were booked. PP lucky to escape a red.
Just before half time, the Honduran
flanker midfield enforcer, spotted his opportunity to really make his mark on the game. And Pogba. Again. With Toon-turncoat, Yohan Cabaye, floating a delicious ball over, through, round and, somehow, under the Honduras defence and with a (still bleeding) Pogba marauding through to bring the ball under his spell, Wilson pulled out a classic WWF (as it was then) Royal Rumble move. PP slumped to the Brazilian turf like Bambi’s mother in that Disney film the name of which escapes me. Penalty and a second yellow for Palacios. “WILSOOOOOON!” screamed the Honduran coach like a demented Tom Hanks. He knew the game was up and so did Terry Henry back in the BBC studio, who was heard over the airwaves weeping tears of pure joy. “Joy of joys”, Terry was heard to exclaim, “there will be no repeat of our 2010 limp-resisted surrender!”
Benzema stroked the ball home from the penalty spot. Half time. A chance for Honduras to regroup and perhaps for some calming words of wisdom from Luis Suarez? Not a bit of it. If anything, he must’ve told them to raise the stakes… “Break bones… severe limbs… make both me and my namesake proud!” he may or may not have said. There was no let-up in the Honduran ferocity but the referee seemed to have lost his nerve (and cards). There were to be no more red cards, only two more French goals. For their part, the Honduran’s made a statement: the Summer of ’69 will no longer be synonymous solely with acne-scarred Canadian’s buying second-hand guitars. Footballing warfare was back in town and here to stay.
The French team, under manager Didier Deschamps’ watchful gaze/nose, looked united and are very much dark-horses for WC glory. Even Patrice Evra was happy.
It would be remiss of me not to mention, the World Cup debut of goal line technology, which was successfully employed in allowing France’s second goal. The German-designed GoalControl-4D system was picked ahead of British-based company, Hawk-Eye’s, system which has been used for years and years in cricket and tennis. FIFA? Slow to the party? Pull the other one. Anyway, it definitely works. Even if BBC commentator, Jonathan Pierce’s, brain temporarily didn’t as he floundered around like a drunken granddad at a wedding trying to piece it all together. Bring back Barry ‘Lovely Goal!’ Davies.