Women’s Football World Cup. USA v England


He looks at the other three men in the pub in Dublin. Waits for a condescending or sexist remark. It doesn’t come. He’s vaguely disappointed.

Don’t comment about the standard of football, don’t comment about the women’s bodies.

USA are relentless, pressure pressure pressure. But they make space with the ball, cut angles, create options. Their passing is cleaving chunks out of the English. The Brits are bleeding, hanging on. Then they score. He pays closer attention.

A woman joins the group of three men. Oh, the Yanks are after scoring? she says. Narrow Dublin accent. She’s whip thin, a smoker for sure. She sips a pint of lager.

The sound of the crown is more highly pitched than at a man’s game. The USA have many more supporters. It’s more real for them.

At half time he reads the last lines of Patti Smith’s Devotion. ‘Why I Write’ my ass, she’s taking the piss. She’s good, mind, but still taking the piss. What is the dream? To write something fine, that would be bigger than I am.

Don’t post on Twitter, don’t comment on the kerfuffle after Alex Morgan’s cup of tea goal celebration. Don’t comment on RTÉ’s silly celebrity hype stuff about Megan Rapinoe. Don’t post about what a team is, how football works.

A writer he knows walks in and joins him. A vinyl LP (is that still a word?) and several books he’s bought. They talk about Patti Smith and The National at All Together Now this summer. Neither of them is going. They talk about books, about travel. They talk about literary festivals. The writer finishes his pint and leaves. The writer isn’t interested in the game.

He wonders: a second pint? Yes, the Guinness is good, his work for the day done.

Don’t react to the photo of Alex Morgan in a swimsuit on Twitter posted by some yob. Don’t be surprised at Bright’s tackle or sending off. Don’t comment on the people saying it wasn’t a penalty. Don’t comment on the criticism of VAR. Pay attention to the game.

Fit girls are on the footpath outside, toing and froing to the gym. Why? Why not? Should they be interested in sport? Women’s sport? Why should they? Are their bodies objects or subjects? Is it about what their bodies can do or how they look? Is it any of his fucking business?

Don’t admire the cynicism of the USA team. Don’t be happy England lose. Don’t be sad England lose.

One of the group of Dubs is the postman on his bike who passed him on the footpath this morning. Slim cigar in this mouth as he freewheeled to his next delivery stop. He leaves the group to head home. Don’t go, you’re great gas, the woman says.

USA are strangling the game to death. Diving, feigning injury, playing keep-ball. Real pros. McIlvanney to Barnes: You like giant-killers, I like giants.

He checks his notes on Patti Smith. He looks up at the US team hugging and high-fiving. There it is, he underlines it. A language without words, where the mind must bow to instinct.

He finishes his pint and leaves the pub. He’ll get an hour’s reading before bed.

Photo copyright BBC, 2019

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