True, when he approached me earlier this evening I fobbed him off without a second glance. But this kind of brusqueness is standard self- defence for tourists staying in Playa del Ingls, a sprawling package holiday resort on the parched southern coast of Spain's Gran Canaria.
The resort's main mall, the Kas Bah, is a purpose-built tile precinct housing a variety of shops, restaurants, pubs and nightclubs. And strung along its main drag is a small army of touts such as Yusef handing out fliers and trying to steer slack-jawed tourists into places like Lineker's. The only way to make any progress is to fix your eyes on the wads of blackened chewing-gum that litter the ground and just say no, no, no.
Yusef, with his neat goatee beard, is smarter, friendlier and less desperate than most. Born 22 years ago in Melilla, in the Spanish part of Morocco, he arrived in Gran Canaria in 1990 and has returned only once, to do his year on military service. He gets a commission of 100 pesetas for every person he walks into Lineker's and makes between 40,00 and 60,000 pesetas every night, over a six-hour stretch finishing at 2.30am. But he does not have to do this, he tells me.
"I have my own bar. Here, I give you a ticket." From his back pocket he produces another flier, advertising a bar called The Blarney Stones. Like Lineker's it has satellite TV tuned permanently to Sky Sports, and a Happy Hour that lasts from 8pm to 1am, during which all drinks are "two for the price of one". In other words, you must buy twice as much as you want.
Yusef only works here so that he can keep an eye on his English girlfriend, Catherine, a barmaid. "I'm very jealous," he says. "I want to see what's going on all the time."
Further up the street under a pink neon sign stands Jay, a pretty young Londoner of mixed race. Like Yusef, she has a handful of tickets for Lineker's. But she has been here only 10 days, and will not be going home until "at least September", when she may try to get into university to study child psychology.
It is 12.45am and business is slow at her end of the street. "There's more PRs around than punters," she says. Public Relations, she explains, is the common euphemism for this kind of work.
Jay believes she could earn up to £30 a night once the season is in full swing. Right now she is making only half that. The key to real money is being able to tell the English from the Dutch, Germans, Swedes and Finns. "After all, only the English are going to be interested in a bar called Lineker's," she says. Here, on the edge of the precinct, is where most of the PRs tout for business. Some work for Lineker's, others for rivals such as Pacha, Bliff and Chic.
Right now there must be at least two dozen of them standing around, trying not to look idle in case their boss is watching. The oldest must be aged about 24. Some offer extras, like the skinny Arab guy in a black T-shirt advertising Joy Disco who wants to sell me some "good Moroccan hash". I decline politely.
"You sniff cocaine?" No, thanks. "What about filthy show? Good, very filthy." As I walk away, he tries once more: "Ecstasy?"
To escape I head back towards Lineker's, past several African men who sit on stone benches under the palm trees selling fake Rolexes and "gold" chains. But they disappear when the police arrive to consult the Kas Bah security guards and shout descriptions into their walkie-talkies. I ask Bally, a Lineker's waiter, what has happened.
"Who knows? Could be a mugging or a handbag snatcher," he says wearily. "Probably one of the Colombians or Moroccans selling coke. You always see them buzzing around out the front here at four in the morning. They're not high on life, I'll tell you."
As I watched the scene unfold, a young transvestite with a helmet-like bob and a clinging cotton dress stopped right in front of me, thenbent over until her face was level with my groin. Since my hands were in my pockets I realised she must be looking, albeit indirectly, at my watch.
"It's a quarter past one," I tell her, and walk away to sit down on a stone bench.
This was a mistake. She follows and pulls out one of her small but impressively flabby breasts for my inspection.
"No thanks, I've already eaten."
"Travestito bueno," she assures me, tugging her tanga briefs from between her buttocks.
"I'll take your word for it," I say, overwhelmed by a sudden urge to drink two Cokes and watch today's Premiership action on television all over again.Reuse content