Las Malvinas

Las Malvinas

As I remember it, the Spring we went to War with Argentina, the weather was particularly gorgeous and as the cherry blossom came out in Alexandra Park, my main concern was that it might all throw a spanner in the works of my World Cup plans. The Spanish government was taking a strong pro-Argentine line and there was talk of a Moscow Olympic style boycott by the home nations. So the early deliberations were a bit lost on me and certainly as Fred Silvester and the Task Force steamed off to the South Atlantic to come to the rescue of a few sheep-farmers it all seemed faintly comical and ridiculous. But a few weeks later the stories came back about soldiers being badly burnt, Goose Green, The General Belgrano and loads of jingoistic ‘Stick it up your Junta’ nastiness from the tabloids. When it emerged that Jocky Wilson was receiving death threats because his wife was called Malvina, things were clearly getting out of hand. Even the Junta themselves, all big moustaches, over-size caps and lashings of gold braid seemed a bit of a joke – sure there were secret police, torture squads and ‘the disappeared’ but wasn’t that just like South Armagh? Surely these were the dashing swashbucklers in the slightly tight electric blue and white stripes who’d won the World Cup four years previously amidst a sea of confetti? Now we were fighting them to the death over some Godforsaken windswept outpost not far from Antarctica. In any case, on Maggie and Kelvin’s orders we all knuckled down behind ‘Our Boys’ and a few months later when they all steamed triumphantly back into Southampton and helicopter hero Prince Andrew leapt out with a rose between his teeth, a nation swooned. The Argies actually surrendered during the World Cup but we didn’t think about it much when we were there. The Northern Ireland supporters bemused the Spanish with their Union Jack waving and chants of ‘Malvinas esta Brittanica’. I was having breakfast one day when the news came through that Diana had given birth. One of our number, a giant of a man, multi-tattooed and rumoured to be a UDA chieftain from the Shankill, stood up on his balcony and raising a bottle of San Miguel, bellowed a toast to the future ‘King William’. Everyone then launched into a chorus of The Sash. There was a bit of posturing during the tournament but the worst agro I saw was a torrent of stale bread rolls thrown at us during the Yugoslavia game in response to a ‘One Sandy Woodward’ chant. And that was it, back home to watch documentaries about Simon Weston, jeer at Ossie Ardiles for a season or two and wonder what it was all about.

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