It came, it flew, it soaked: How performative pint-throwing became the summer's unexpected World Cup craze

Because sometimes the only way to join in the fun is to throw £8 worth of fermented malt all over yourself

Adam Hurrey
Friday 13 July 2018 16:00 BST
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BoxPark Croydon celebrates Harry Maguire goal

“Here are the scenes in Zagreb...it's not quite Croydon, but there you go”

It had taken several thousand plastic pints of beer and, as one bewildered news report put it, “clouds of fermented mist” but Croydon was now the benchmark for something. Just two minutes from East Croydon station - or an eight-minute trudge from the nearest Nando’s - the 2,000-capacity Boxpark venue has become the Ground Zero for an explosive phenomenon: performative pint-throwing.

“Statistical experts”, claimed The Sun in the aftermath of England’s quarter-final win over Sweden , “have now worked out just how much beer went up in the air - a combined total of 100,000 pints.”

Croydon BoxPark celebrates Kieran Trippier's goal

The scientific rigour of the data-gathering methods were not divulged, but the estimates were around £150,000 of beer being thrown every time England scored a World Cup goal.

When considered in the context of all the beer supposedly sold in the country during the semi-final against Croatia , that equated to a mere one in every thousand pints being bought specifically for the purpose of being propelled upward and then outward like a late-1940s underwater nuclear test. But, for every thousand quiet pubs with a single screen in the corner, there was a Boxpark, a Hyde Park and a Brighton Beach.

Like every craze - be it a summer craze, an internet craze or a World Cup craze - there is the blissfully innocent early-adopters phase, then a quick spike to saturation point (quite literally in this case), the sneering backlash, the briefer backlash to the backlash and then the quiet phasing-out of the whole thing altogether.

This four-week evolutionary cycle ran parallel to England’s World Cup campaign, although there are signs that Croatia’s city-centre squares will be taking on the mantle of Beer-Throwing World Champions this weekend.

Zagreb celebrates Croatia taking the lead against England

That covers the what, but the why is harder to pin down. How do you celebrate an England goal at a World Cup? A sustained fist-pump and a drawn-out, cathartic “YYYEAAAAAASSSSSSSS” tends to suffice for most, but bring together thousands of outdoor World Cup watchers and you need something rather more eye-catching and unifying.

The numbers are crucial. Enough people, enough beer and enough froth and it starts to look like a controlled demolition of a disused power station which, now I think about it, is the perfect description for the unspontaneous throwing away of something that cost you anywhere up to £8 and ten minutes in a queue. Much like booing, if one man throws his beer, it’s weird and uncalled for. If 2,000 people in a converted Croydon warehouse do it in unison, it becomes something of a spectacle.

World Cup 2018: Fans in Leeds celebrate England scoring against Sweden

England’s mid-afternoon cruise against Sweden appeared to be the pint-chucking zenith. Then, as the BBC did a tour of provincial pint-throwers, Rio Ferdinand observed the goal celebrations in Leeds’ Millennium Square. “There’s no beer throwing about”, Rio lamented. “Where’s the beer?” Clearly, there was some way still to go.

Amid the obvious collective aesthetics of it all - Boxpark quickly cottoned on to the idea of setting up cameras specifically to catch the 4% ABV monsoon - there are individual considerations. Sheer physics and flimsy plastic mean that the technique of throwing a beer - full or otherwise - is far from a straightforward affair.

Analysis of video footage suggests that gripping the lip of the cup and then flinging it horizontally (the grip-and-fling, as the veterans call it) may be the most effective tactic.

Meanwhile, others opt for multiple, vertical thrusts of the beer, which is more conducive to frothage and results in a more drawn-out, dare we say tantric, pint-releasing experience. What once were “scenes”, and then “limbs”, are now pints.

But in pint-chucking - as in football, as in life - you can score too early. Last night, Hyde Park’s 30,000-strong would-be pint-chuckers barely had time to prepare their ammunition before being compelled by Kieran Trippier’s free kick to shoot their load - so to speak - within five minutes.

As Gareth Southgate’s side then began to launch the ball towards the knackered Harry Kane, it suddenly felt like an entirely appropriate way to celebrate English football: once you have possession of something valuable, you must get rid of it, as far away as possible, as soon as possible, and then wonder how you’re going to get it again.

England are out, football is no longer homeward bound: are we now into the post-pint-throwing era? How much beer can we really expect to be thrown into the Hyde Park top-soil when Danny Welbeck bundles the ball home after Gary Cahill’s initial header is saved in the 32nd minute of the third-place playoff against Belgium’s second string?

Looking further ahead, how will the pint-throwing mini-phenomenon adapt to the looming domestic season? The practice surely does not translate well to the fractured, tribal, very-much-not-all-in-it-together atmosphere of a pub on Super Sunday. A root-and-branch review is needed, because there are troubled times ahead for the once glorious English pint-throwing game.

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