The Diary: Touching signs of the times

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The Independent Online
WORLD CUP etiquette is a funny old game. Swiss supporters melting like Gruyere in the Silverdome were asked to put their shirts back on because of hygiene regulations. (The same fans were intensely amused by the pop-up nappy- changing facility in the men's rest- rooms.)

But it is a two-way interfacing situation, as they say over here. Orlando police have already been detained by special foreigner- awareness classes, teaching them about the Dutch habit of cop-kissing. Miami Nice are now ready for two lips from Amsterdam.

World Cup diplomats started with a kiss and moved on to other bodily expressions. USA '94's super-friendly staff are warned about visitors' sign language. A thumbs up to Rashidi Yekini or any of his Nigerian compatriots is considered a major league insult. America's familiar OK gesture - thumb and forefinger pressed together - means '**** you' to Germans and South Americans.

Shaking an outstretched forefinger plus little pinkie - a sign of affection in fraternities - guarantees a range of reactions. It can indicate infidelity (Italy), the devil (Brazil), a voodoo curse (Africa), or a cow for Hindus, who are not here in numbers.

US soccer-speak also presents problems. Andy Moller, one of the members of the equable German contingent, must have been surprised when he arrived at a Nike store which harboured promotional posters declaring: 'Meet Andreas Moller. Offensive midfielder. Team Germany.'

DOUBTLESS Moller would have joined in the jollity afforded to fans when they espied a large message on a Portaloo delivery truck: 'You dump, we hump. We're number ones or number twos.'

ONE ISSUE for English visitors that cannot be flushed away is hooliganism. Americans believe the Old Country to be bedevilled by 'rowdyism'. A Chicago radio host questioned me on English football riots, which seemed a classic case of pots and kettles as followers of the local Bulls are famed for their looting sprees after basketball finals. Sad, though, that England's stigma remains.

AMERICA'S print media is certainly on the ball. Anyone fearing that newspapers would ignore an alien activity read joyfully the opening lines of the Chicago Tribune's report on Brazil 2 Russia 0.

'This was like taking the first two sips of Dom Perignon, two bites of the first ripe tomatoes of midsummer, two licks of chocolate ice-cream at Tre Scarlini in Rome. It was what the French call amuse- juele, something to tantalise the palate.' He sounds a convert.

BRAZIL'S mobile Theatre of Drums has wowed the locals, but probably the most unexpectedly entertaining party has been the Swiss with their interminable cow bells. During the humiliation of Romania, the ball was sliced into the crowd; a Swiss fan whipped a pen from his pocket, autographed the ball and drop- kicked it back into play.

COOLEST man of the show? Easy. Eric Cantona, the effortlessly hip catwalk king: John Lennon sunglasses, reversed baseball cap, Parisian t-shirt (how rare to see him without an upturned collar), elegant strides and immeasurably trendy Seventies-style trainers. If only he were playing.

THE bottle of Wild Turkey Bourbon for odd team of the week (World Cup thespians) goes to John Wright of Devon for the following . . .

Joseph-Antoine (Tom) Bell (Cameroon); Martin (Robert) Wagner (Germany), Albert (Mel) Ferrer (Spain), Ernie (James) Stewart (United States), Tomas (James) Brolin (Sweden), Phillipe (Eddie) Albert (Belgium), Gary (Gene) Kelly (Ireland), Antonio (Richard) Conte (Italy), Choi In (Loretta) Young (South Korea), Jaime (Rita) Moreno (Bolivia), Stephan (Beatrix) Lehmann (Switzerland).

This week's Bourbon test is a team of World Cup writers. Entries to: World Cup Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.