The Importance of being English

      He was walking down a lonely road, when suddenly, there jumped out in front of him, not one, but two old Scottish men with greyish-white hair. One of them was moving his jaws in a peculiar fashion, as if devilishly devouring a piece of chewing-gum. He turned and started to run, but found his path blocked by two more men. One of them looked him in the eye, and with a sinister grin, said, “Where zou you zink you are going, Monsieur?”

     Charles awoke with a start. He was sweating all over. Deftly, he reached out for his prescription drugs, prudently placed on his bed-side table. Swallowing a couple, he lay down, and started shivering. He’d been having these nightmares for the past couple of weeks. Always, he would be accosted by Scottish men who said nothing and chewed heavily on something, and Frenchmen who loved to talk in heavily accented English. It had tested his reserves to no little extent, and he jumped at tiny, normal sounds like the tring-tring of a bicycle or the chimes of the church bell, and he had developed a phobia towards old men with greyish-white hair. Angrily, he cursed what they called ‘the beautiful game’. It was all happening because of that God-forsaken puerile practice of kicking a ball around, when your energies could be utilized in something more creative. And the worst part was, he didn’t even indulge in it. He’d never played football in his life, simply because his mother had never wanted him to. ‘Football is for hooligans” she used to say. “Hooligans that don’t want nothing but to hurt poor innocent kids like you. Try boxing, Charles. It’s a much safer, and gentler sport!” And Charles had followed his mother’s advice all the way. He’d never even kicked a football before that day, that day when Fate had decided that Charles Geoffrey Fotheringay-Worthington should have it squarely in the nut-sack. That day, Charles happened to be passing a playground when, out of nowhere, came a football, shooting out like the Devil’s Snare. It stopped right in front of him, and at once, a child of about ten called out to him for the ball. Too bored to bend over and pick it up, Charles decided to kick it instead. And he’d never made a graver mistake in his life. As soon as he sent the ball flying towards the jubilant lad of ten, some ten-fifteen old men with greyish white hair jumped on him, and started arguing with each other. “Bugger off, you old nut, I saw him first” and words to that effect were being exchanged. Amongst the melee, Charles managed to scramble to his feet, and took off like a jack-rabbit being chased by a wolf. And the way the old men chased him would certainly have put the proverbial wolf to shame. Charles managed to reach home, lock the door, and pack his essentials, all in record time. The record for such a feat was previously held by an Indian whose illegal shop was to be torn down by the Municipality officers, and he’d clocked in at 10 mins, 52 secs. Charles managed all of it in 23 seconds flat. He then rushed out to the humble abode of his best friend, Sam De Wise. Sam, being an avid football fan, welcomed him with a condescending smile and a sympathetic shrug. He knew what was going on. “I know what’s going on”, he said. “It’s the 6+5 Rule”. “And what in the name of God is that?” asked Charles, flabbergasted. And then, Sam De Wise, strangely living up to his name, began to explain.

       With a name like ‘Charles Geoffrey Fotheringay-Worthington’, green eyes, and wavy brown hair, Charles was as English as they made ’em. And the ‘6+5 Rule’ demanded that beginning the season of 2012-13, every club in the FA had to have 6 English players on the pitch. They could be substituted later, but they had to be there at the starting whistle. And since the already existing English players weren’t very good, (“Look at their performance in the World Cup. And they hadn’t even qualified for Euro ’08!” said Sam) the top clubs were on a hunt to find the next English prodigy. All of Sam’s football-playing friends had been kidnapped long ago, and taken to slave camps, a la the Third Reich, by potbellied Scottish men, with whiskey on their breath and chewing-gum in their mouth (“You-Know-Who’s Army, they called themselves”, said Sam). And they were being sold to the top clubs for anywhere between 75m and 200m. “But I don’t even play football!” protested Charles. “In fact, today was the first time that I’ve ever touched a ball with my foot!” “It doesn’t matter” explained Sam, in a tone of utmost austerity. “The other day, they kidnapped my friend Jack because he kicked a  can of soda right into the dumpster. We have to move you to a secure location, somewhere You-Know-Who’s army can’t find you.” “But why?” wailed Charles, “Why is this happening to ME?” “It’s quite simple, really” said Sam. “You’re English.”

     On his way to Sam’s country estate in Devonshire, his car was stopped by a tall, impeccably dressed Frenchman, with an intelligent air about him. “Are zou a futballer?” he asked Charles. “No”, he replied firmly. “Then come wizz me”. “Wait!” interjected Sam, “He is 26 years old!”  “Aah, too bad. Too old for my taste!” said the Frenchman, and walked away. “Why didn’t he arrest me? Does he only like young people?” asked Charles. “Well, there’s that. And there’s another thing.” answered Sam. “What’s that?” “It’s quite simple, really. You’re English.”

      Charles was eventually found and kidnapped by You-Know-Who’s Army, and within the next two years, he became the biggest footballer in England. A reporter got wind of his alleged encounter with the Frenchman, and when he went to ask the Frenchman just WHY he didn’t kidnap him there and then and sign him up, the Frenchman looked at him over his long, mischievous nose, and said with dignity, “I zoo not know, I zeed not zee him.”

Parth Rajwade

Technology Consultant who loves reading, working on his novel, imbibing whiskey and beer, and screaming at the telly during Arsenal games