Sunday, 4 October 2009

It's only a game

The shimmer of sun-blast heat commingles with the foetid fumes of fertilizer - there's virtually no soil or vegetation to speak of - forming a discreet veil of miasma under which the pitch is now submerged and the players' legs redacted from the knee down.

The referee - black tie, top hat, carbon-weave shorts and short-sleeved shirt - drops the ball somewhere near the centre spot, where it will remain from view for the rest of the match.

Glancing around, the crowd: an amorphous confluence under which individuality is drowned in the irresistible rip-tide of legion.

There's a minute of respectful silence for "Machine Gun" Eddie - a former home favourite - and then the referee's siren screams start.

A player steps forward, feigns a last-second lunge and swerves to allow his partner to criss-cross over the spot where, one could only guess, the ball might have been. There's a deadening thud as one of the land mines is detonated. A crimson geyser erupts spraying seared human mince and charred gristle in every conceivable direction (and some not so readily conceivable). Indeed, such is the force of the blast, an almost fully intact arm is flung into the crowd were a millipedal mass of grappling, but otherwise intact arms, reach out to swallow it up. After some hustling and tussling, a track-suited, bling-bejewelled, close-shaven, menace finally lays claim to the bloody trophy and holds it aloft.

Thus Spake Zarathrustra trumpets tinnily, yet triumphantly, from the Tannoy system.

There's a sucking sound of group inhalation followed by an euphoric, self-sustaining, tsunamic roar. Only when the tracer fire sews the sky in multicoloured dashes is their attention drawn back to the game which, in the time of their own temporary distraction, has evolved into full-blown war. The action on the pitch is now far too occluded to observe with the naked eye and heads, instead, turn to the big screens where the live action unfolds in close-up, save for one corner entirely devoted to replaying rolling highlights: hot serrated chainsaws cutting through buttery pale flesh, severed arteries pumping like whale blows and the flash of machine-gun muzzles forming visible star points in the otherwise nebulous chaos.

By the end of the game there are two gored, gorged and not too gorgeous survivors left limping. The referee declares it a draw. However, since this is a cup match, it will have to go to sudden death. Each survivor is given twenty-five minutes to dress in the style of their favourite artist and then step up to the raised platform, where they will sing to the crowd as if their very lives depended upon it, because, in a very real sense, they did. At the culmination of the sing-off, the crowd will decide the winner by collectively voting with their zoom-scoped, high-powered rifles (the vetting process is rigorous and only responsible owners over the age of twelve are permitted to bring them to matches).

The day is finally crowned with the traditional beheading of the referee. The head is then taken away to be carefully embalmed and the skin flayed from the body to be cured, de-limed in a vat of acid and treated with enzymes to maintain its suppleness, before finally undergoing the tanning process. The resultant human leather is then stretched and stitched-to-fit over the preserved head ready for the next game.

Now that's entertainment.

We'll be right back after the ads.

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