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Offside, 7 January

2004’s additions to the footballing lexicon.

Duleep Allirajah

Topics Politics

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2004 will be remembered as the year in which the king of the soccer catchphrase committed professional suicide.

As a football summariser ‘Big Ron’ Atkinson created an extensive lexicon of idiosyncratic expressions which came to be known as Ronglish. But unfortunately for him the phrase ‘fucking lazy thick nigger’ proved to be the wrong sort of Ronglish. ITV gave Big Ron the curly finger and banished him from our TV screens.

But although the catchphrase king is gone his art is still very much alive. In 2004 our vocabulary was enriched with a number of new footballing expressions. If 2003 was the year in which the word ‘roasting’ acquired a new sexual connotation then the eroticised word of 2004 was ‘dogging’. According to the New Oxford English Dictionary the verb ‘dog’ means to ‘follow (someone or their movements) closely and persistently’. But now, thanks to recovering footballer Stan Collymore, ‘dogging’, an alfresco offshoot of ‘swinging’ (and I’m not talking Frank Sinatra here), also means to watch couples having sex in public car parks.

‘What I have done is disgusting and I’m so ashamed, but I’m only human’, sobbed Collymore. ‘I can only beg for forgiveness.’ But as Big Ron was later to discover, public acts of contrition do not always lead to redemption. Collymore lost his job as a football pundit and was last seen degrading himself on The Farm, the reality TV show in which Rebecca Loos notoriously masturbated a pig. Ms Loos’ rather tenuous claim to fame rests on a somewhat insubstantial body of work, namely pleasuring a pig on TV and having ‘text sex’ with Becks (allegedly). One suspects that the curly finger will soon beckon for her.

Not all hitherto innocent words have been eroticised by overpaid, oversexed footballers. In Croydon the word ‘fisting’ no longer refers to a sexual act but to the trademark victory celebration of Crystal Palace manager Iain Dowie. ‘It’s just a spontaneous thing that I’ve done’, explained Dowie. ‘When you win it’s always nice to show that.’ But while Dowie fistings were cheap and plentiful in Division One, they have been much rarer in the Premiership. ‘I fear we will be more fisted against than fisting’, lamented one fan on the Palace Bulletin Board. ‘Twelve fistings from Dowie would be heaven’, said another. ‘Throw in a few draws and that ought to be enough to stay up.’

Although the word ‘fisting’ has acquired a new meaning for Palace fans (except perhaps Nookie Bear who owes his life to Roger de Courcey’s fist) it still has pornographic connotations everywhere else. However, another Dowie-ism has gained a much wider currency. Dowie first used the word ‘bouncebackability’ in a post-match press conference last season (historians are still debating the precise date) to describe his team’s capacity to recover from a setback. Bouncebackability rapidly became the football It-Word of 2004 thanks largely to cult Sky TV programme Soccer AM which launched a campaign to get the word into the English dictionary. ‘Bouncebackability is an absolutely phenomenal word because it’s very rare for a word to have such public backing so immediately’, admitted Jeremy Butterfield editor-in-chief of the Collins English Dictionary. ‘The chances of it going into our dictionary are very high.’

Another contender for dictionary status is the word ‘Rooneymania’ (and its abbreviated form ‘Roomania’), which describes the wave of excitement that fleetingly swept England during Euro 2004. Wayne Rooney looks like Shrek, has a penchant for mature PVC-clad prostitutes, and possesses an extremely short fuse, but he is the most exciting English talent to emerge since the footballer formerly known as Gazza (who now prefers to be called ‘G8’).

Rooney can do things with a football that can make grown men weep (and I don’t mean that in a dogging or roasting way), but, like all good British sporting icons, he can also provoke grown men to hurl vile abuse. When he wears the England jersey he carries the nation’s hopes and expectations (ie, we hope to win but expect to go out on penalties), but the rest of the time you’ll find us chanting: ‘He’s fat, he’s scouse, he’s gonna rob yer house’ or ‘He’d rather shag your granny than Colleen’.

Rooney was a central figure in the bad-tempered clash between Manchester United and Arsenal that was subsequently dubbed the ‘Battle of the Buffet’. Invariably the media reaction to a harmless food fight bordered on the hysterical. ‘Manchester United-Arsenal games are becoming a threat to public order’, bristled Paul Hayward in the Daily Telegraph. It was left to veteran hellraiser George Best to put this so-called ‘battle’ into perspective. ‘That’s what children do – throw food. That’s not fighting. We were real men. We’d have chinned them.’ A food fight would have been enjoyable enough to watch but I’d have gladly paid top dollar to see a proper punch up. Tell you what, there’s a crowd scene in the tunnel and the players are going at it to the sound of the trumpets, as Big Ron might have said.

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