A Time-Traveling Foreigner Would Like To Take A Moment And Be Brutally Condescending

We found a confused Victorian gentleman wandering the streets of Chicago last Thursday, and he asked - nay, demanded - to send a morale-boosting message to American 'soccer' fans prior to their Gold Cup final match. So, here it is:

Football. No, no, no, most emphatically not the American kind. The type with a ball that doesn't look like a particularly offensive Stone Age attempt at a spearhead - yes, that football. Well done. If one is not already familiar with the sport, football involves kicking a spherical leather ball with your feet until one is too tired and/or injured to participate further. The purpose is to give to give the youth of the country something to do that is not entertaining immoral and villainous thoughts.

It is of some small interest, I understand, that 'team USA' has managed to put together the five people in the country who know how to play the game and surrounded them with athletes who run hard and fast enough to give the fleeting illusion of sporting competence. This, naturally, had led to them being in line to participate in a rather important match against southern neighbours Mexico. The Gold Cup final will determine who rules the football roost in North America, which is vaguely akin to being the greatest imperial power ever to emerge from the Maldives.

Mexico, incidentally, should not be a problem, primarily because they only speak Spanish. Frankly, if you can't bark orders in an authoritative tone (in English, of course!), you cannot possibly hope to win - even should they lift the trophy it'll be a Pyrrhic victory on account of them not having a stiff-enough upper lip. So, for America, it's a moral victory no matter what. Moral victories, incidentally, are the best sort, because to suffer is manly.

(The Maldives are a small island chain just south of India. I knew you'd ask. The natives didn't put up any sort of fight at all.)

Once one has suffered enough - if you haven't, I can heartily recommend hairshirts - one can contemplate winning the game in the non-moral sense, which involves scoring points by putting the ball between the oppositions' goal posts. A player may use any part of your body with the exception of the hands to achieve this end. The head is particularly useful, because it's been demonstrated by leading scientists that the common concussion is a superb aid in the development of moral fibre.

The most commonly accepted way of scoring a goal is for the entire team (save the two unfortunate souls in defence) to mount a head-down blind charge forwards with the ball at the the feet of the burliest player. Some might argue that passing the ball between friendly players makes the game more skillful. This misses the point in rather spectacular fashion; there's no blood in that sort of game.

You will, of course, find that at some juncture in the match your uncouth opponents haven't done the decent thing in returning to you possession of the football. They may even attempt to shuttle the ball from one player to another in a bid to avoid facing the correct and proper retribution for their misdeeds. The resolution to this particular problem is simple: Hacking.

When a player refuses to submit to one's defenders in good and proper order, the correct response is to bring them down in peremptory fashion with a well-delivered kick to whichever shin is within easier reach - the 'hack'. Executed correctly, this will stop them in their tracks and, God willing, may even cause serious injury. So-called 'modern', 'liberal' referees may frown on this practice, but frankly you might as well kick the other side as hard as possible because they'll scream in ear-piercing fashion whether or not you make any contact.

If the match is going poorly (clearly, the players are failing to impose their superb moral character on the occasion), the fans can get involved by singing patriotic songs. In the grand terraces of London, we favour songs such as 'God Save the Queen' and 'Rule Britannia' - my experience with America is that the rough equivalents are the rather excellent 'Manifest Destiny' and the more unusual 'You Can Shoot My Gun Out Of My Cold, Dead Hands'.

There. Following my rather excellent tutelage, one is now properly equipped to dispatched the Mexican foe and bring glory to the grand vistas of Pasadena, California. For my part, I'm exceptionally pleased that our most abrasive colony is starting to embrace the grand sport of football. I'm sure that within no time you'll be fishing the tea out of Boston Harbor and beginning to pay your taxes promptly.

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