Football: Americans follow the party line

At Large In France

I DON'T know if the Americans will get through to the next round, but they were sure getting through the rounds in the "bar car" of the Montpellier-Paris TGV.

I should stress that this was fans rather than players, but serious and knowledgeable fans, who had seen seven games in six days, no mere cheerleaders for Uncle Sam's army. Pete from Atlanta was going to check out the Louvre first chance he had, but he admitted that the dream of the other guys in his party was to stroll down the Champs Elysees at night with their arms around a 12-pack.

Then, at Valence, Hank got on and made us all feel like soldiers in the Salvation Army. He already had one 12-pack under his belt and was soon working his way steadily through the next. A blues singer by trade, with a band called the Glory Hogs, he had come over to France on a concert tour, seen "a million naked babes on the beach", and changed his mind about going back. He was planning to get off at Lyon, but since the train was going at 200 kmph at the time, he changed his mind on that too.

Jim from Chicago (a trader with Merrill Lynch) was reminiscing about the US-Germany game as we replayed the goals on a video camera they had been filming with. "I thought we came from the land of meat and potatoes, but those Germans must be feeding their guys on something we don't know about, because they're twice the size of ours. It was like watching men playing against boys."

The general consensus was not too optimistic about the Iran game either. "It doesn't matter how much I drink," chipped in Patrick (born in Glasgow, moved to Nashville aged 1), "I still can't see us scoring any goals with a 3-6-1 formation. You can't play like that and expect to win. We all thought that was just a ruse to throw off the Germans. We couldn't believe it when it was for real. Sampson [Steve, the US coach] is sacked when he gets back."

"You know what we need?" said Pete, trying to strike a more positive note. "Better songs. The England fans taught us the songs they sing to annoy the Germans. But `USA all the way' is not going to annoy anybody." Hank, unable to resist the call of duty, made up a few songs on the spot, and proceeded to sing them, at top volume, even without a guitar. "We are going to have our day,/ We are going to make you pay," was one of them. Another was "Iran must die,/ The US will fly." The rest were xenophobic enough to make his early efforts sound like nursery rhymes.

"Don't listen to him," pleaded Jim, who came close to slamming Hank a few times. "He's not representative. The players just want to play. With both teams losing their first game there's a lot on the line, without their having to play politics too. But the fans are putting a lot of pressure on this one."

The Marseilles story had gone down big in the States and their families had been ringing them up anxiously, even when they were in Paris, saying, "Are you OK?" Jason, from Tennessee, wearing a baseball cap on back to front, had a new spin on the troubles. "It wasn't the English who started it - it was the Welsh."

They had run into four Welshmen on the train south who were going there just to stir things up. "They've been passing themselves off as Englishmen, you bet". And it's true that the French, who recognise the Scots because they're all wearing kilts, don't generally discriminate between Welsh and English (they're all Anglais). Marie, from Corsica, who was serving the drinks, conceded that "The English are not all bad."

The talk kept swinging back to politics. "They should have Clinton in the team," said Jason. "He'll score. That guy is worse than a sailor."

I was concerned we were making too much noise in the bar car. But Marie reassured me. "Don't worry, the Colombians are far worse." She gave me her mobile number as we pulled into Paris in case I wanted to talk more about trains and fans. OK, I admit it, I asked her for her number, but she did give it. "Man," whistled Jim as we got off at the Gare de Lyon, "if you're ever out of a job, you'd have a shot at President of the United States."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat