Football is a game that divides and obsesses, but Dharamsala’s Sharsaman bar for the midnight kick-off of the Champions’ League Final last week was a mighty fine place to be.
Thanks to some terrific marketing by the bar that had advertised the game between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich as starting at 10.30pm the place was packed out with as motley a crew as possible.
Firstly there was the dashing matinee idol (me), the self-titled Captain Crip, a paralysed man in the most wheelchair-unfriendly town in the world, several plastered Tibetan monks, a cheeky chappy from London who supported Chelsea and a veritable smattering of Italians and Germans supporting their respective clubs.
I started talking to Captain Crip about how he lost the use of his legs (bike accident in Oregon) and said to him it at least his old chappaquiddick was still working.
Ah, apparently he’d lost the use of that as well so I quickly started talking about why Inter’s captain Zanetti hadn’t been picked for the Argentinian World Cup squad… promising to punch myself in the face later for being such an idiot.
Strangely enough all the Tibetans wanted Bayern to win and by the time we were finally on our way the atmosphere was raucous, polarised and good-natured, but I have a strange foible when it comes to a particular German player and it nearly led to trouble.
For some strange reason every time Bastian Schweinsteiger touches the ball in any match I always scream out ‘SCHWEINSTEIGER! at the top of my voice. I don’t know why, perhaps I have SCHWEINSTEIGER’S syndrome, but I was getting a lot of dirty looks until I explained my condition and all calmed down.
I’d like to report that the whole bar shouted out ‘SCHWEINSTEIGER’ every time he got the ball but Inter marked him out of the game and there was enough mayhem going on for the incident to be forgotten.
By the time Inter had lifted the trophy after a very one-sided victory it was nearly 3am by the time I had said my goodbyes and clambered home using my crap Nokia as a torch.
On the way I averted three quite mental dogs, nearly fell to my death twice until I fell into our 150 rupee-per-night room greatly annoying my wife and son by snoring for the rest of the night (sorry, family).
But I’m going to have to watch my mouth. When England play their second World Cup group match next month I am likely to be the only whitey watching the game in an Addis Adaba bar when I’m in Ethiopia. But more of that later, as I’m sure you can imagine.