Prepare well for a night to savour
Wednesday 26 June 1996
Our greatest footballing moment? Well, there haven't been a lot to choose from over the past 30 years, have there? That's why it's crucial we prepare for tonight's match as carefully as we hope Terry Venables is doing.
Non-football enthusiasts might puzzle over why the nation is getting so frenzied about The Match. "It's not even the final," they argue. What these sad souls do not realise is that victory tonight is more important than winning the final. England might be the old enemy for Scottish fans but, for the English, beating the Germans is far more satisfying than turning over the Jocks, whom we usually beat anyway.
The tabloids have been conducting a campaign of German warfare since the weekend, while the broadsheets have been far more restrained. You can snigger at Sun readers thinking xenophobia is a dislike of Chinese philosophy but, mark my words, tonight's game will bring out the bigot in us all. To hell with the better team winning - just let it be us.
If you have any sense, you will be reading this at home rather than on your way to work. British Rail is staffed entirely by football-haters who will relish the opportunity to announce this evening: "There has been a serious delay to all trains..." Buses will break down and lorries driven by malicious Scotsmen will shed their loads across three lanes of every major motorway. Don't let them catch you out.
There are certain other precautions to take. Unplug the telephone because there is certain to be a plague of wrong numbers between 7.30pm and 9.15pm. Disconnect the doorbell and secure all doors. Get rid of the family. Locking them in a cupboard may seem extreme, but giving valium to particularly noisy children or pets is perfectly acceptable.
Getting dressed up is not compulsory. Office workers may find their grey suits, perhaps with adhesive stick-on numbers on the jacket, are all that is needed. If eating during the match, make sure you order your pizza delivery to arrive at least an hour before kick-off. Alcoholic beverages will heighten your appreciation of refereeing decisions in a way that tea or orange juice can never do.
Champagne should be your preferred drink. It has the double advantage that you can shake the bottle and squirt it all over yourself when England win. Dutch and Swiss beer is acceptable, but do not in any circumstances consume anything made in Germany or Austria.
This may all seem like a lot of effort just for 90 minutes of football. But, in 30 years' time, you will be able to look back and say proudly: "I was there."
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