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Eric Cantona Beach Football
by Red Kelly July 2000  

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Richmond Beach Football Sunday July 16 2000

A Dream Cast with one Major Player

by Red Kelly The mad Dane had been offered two free tickets for the Richmond Dreamcast beach football tournament, but as he's in Denmark and not (quite) daft enough to come over for the day, I was the lucky recipient. The fact that Eric would be playing was a deciding factor in me taking advantage of the offer and also the factor which persuaded Gina to come with me. So on Saturday morning we set off bound for Surrey. Gina wore her Eric t-shirt and was intent on one thing - to get the great man's autograph.

We had only just arrived when a posse of familiar faces greeted us - IMUSA and SU represented en masse. We were some of the first to arrive so perched ourselves on the very front row behind the goal. The likes of a certain senior member of SU and a well known Red News mother had blagged their way into the press area and before the event had started had apparently been mixing with the deity himself. Now why hadn't I thought of that? After all, writing for the simplenet website surely qualifies for a press pass doesn't it? No worries though, we were on the front row and Eric would surely be over at some time to greet his adoring public.

The tournament consisted of 7 games, with each team playing the other for 8 minutes a half with a short break in between and then the final which would obviously be between the two most successful teams. The first game was between the United old boys and the Ancient Bin-dippers. Representing our illustrious past were Arthur Albiston, Clayton "Sunbed" Blackmore, Paul Parker, Billy Garton, Colin (K-Stand) Gibson, Peter Barnes, Frank Stapleton and in goal, Dave Ryan. I know, I'd never heard of Dave Ryan either, but despite being a veritable barrel on legs, he did us proud, mostly because he filled the goal, shall we say, very adequately. Actually there were a few barrels-on-legs and none more so than the Scousers. It has to be remembered that it is a prerequisite that you had and still have to be hit with the ugly stick to play for that lot as John Wark, Jimmy Case, Phil Neal, Grobbleshit and David (supersub) Fairclough bore testament!

The crowd was mostly United, some Arse, some French, but very few Dirties - they probably stayed back to visit all the houses vacated by those who had bothered to turn up! We were sat next to Tom, with a boisterous crowd of Reds behind us. The first game was against the Dirties and our first goal was scored by Stapleton, but the Scousers were 2-1 up by half time and it was all our fault for serenading them with, "1-0 in your cup final" after "Frankie, Frankie, Frankie Stapleton" had scored - because they scored immediately afterwards. And then scored again as we sang, "1-1 in your cup final!" We shut up after that and let the lads take a half time break. It did the trick as "K-Stand" scored the equaliser, Barnesey put us 3-2 and then 4-2 in up and Frank made it 5-2. The Scousers did pull a goal back at the end but the game finished 5-3 and they were called up for a photo-call with a giant beachball, and it seemed appropriate that the PA blared out the theme to the Benny Hill show at that very moment! Inventive DJ'ing as they did bear an uncanny resemblance to a bunch of seventies porn stars, or so I'm told!

Next game up was the French against the Arse - a miss-match if ever there was one! The French were 3-0 up by half time and two of the three had been scored by Eric who was strutting his stuff with all his usual aplomb. There was much rejoicing - many "ooh - aah's" and by the end of the half a full rendition of "what a friend we have in Jesus". Eric is still King and court jester rolled into one - a little heavier than before, but the skill is there in abundance. By the end of the game the French had strolled to a 6-1 victory and we were singing, "you've only come to see Eric" as the aforementioned flicked his way to victory.

Next up it was United's turn to smack the Arse, but not until they had given them a goal start. By this time Gina had requested a move, as seating had filled up and she had taken exception to the bunch of Gooners who had stationed themselves behind us. So we took temporary seats by the corner flag - well, we would have done if there had been a corner flag! Early on we were nearly taken out by a miss-directed Stapleton missile which whistled mere inches past our ears - it was obviously safer behind the goal! Now I understand why United wanted to house the extended disabled section behind the scoreboard goal. It was Stapleton who eventually made the scores level, Parker who claimed the lead and Barnes who took us further ahead. The PA encouraged the Arse fans to get behind their team which only produced a response from the Reds of, "you're supposed to be at home!" After the half time break Barnes made it 4-1, Charlie Nicholas (apparently - but if that was really Charlie Nicholas he's taken up Sumo wrestling) pulled one back for the Gooners. Dave Ryan in our goal made a couple of good saves and was treated to, "are you Barthez in disguise", mind you, the only similarity was the bald head - the girth was more reminiscent of a certain Ozzie! Billy Garton, running from almost his own goal line finally made the score 5-2.

Next up it was the Scouse against the French which surprisingly stayed goalless until after the half time break, but finished up 4-0 with Eric scoring twice again and one of them a superb scissors kick and us singing, "hello, hello, Eric is god, Eric is god". "Supersub" David Fairclough came on and immediately missed a sitter and Grobbelar was serenaded with, "Brucie, Brucie what's the score?"

United were up against the French next with Eric on the wrong side. Gina was in no doubt about who she was supporting - Eric! The rest of us were content either way and a good job too because the game had hardly started before the King had back-heeled a goal against us. Now where have I heard that before? He then made it 2-0 and 4-0 for the first hat-trick. The score was made slightly more respectable by Billy Garton, but still ended 4-1 to the French.

The next game was between the Scousers and the Arse so we took time out to visit the Sega tent and the bar and were forced to wander past several very unsuitably dressed young females. What I mean is, they were hardly what you might call dressed and we were unfortunately in cloudy Richmond and not on Miami beach. The abundance of naked flesh had attracted a huge crowd of males all pretending to be playing football with their offspring, but frequently miss-directing passes due to lack of attention to the beautiful game!

As soon as the final group game was over we went back to the front row for the final which was between United and France. Apart from Gina, we all supported United while singing Eric songs - she just sang Eric songs! It seemed inevitable that the great man should score first as he controlled every game, but Sunbed was not to be upstaged and bagged his first soon after and his second soon after that to put the Reds into the lead. A header from an Eric corner made it 2-2 and an Eric scissors kick, 3-2 to the French by half time. The second half could have gone either way with both Stapleton and Parker missing sitters and the latter burying his head (literally) in the sand coming up with what looked a natty new bleached hairstyle! The French, however, took both their chances to stretch their lead, but Sunbed wasn't finished and slammed in his hat-trick from at least 200 yards to make the final score 3-5 to the French. Gina celebrated by blowing raspberries to us all as the King lifted the trophy.

The only thing left was the autograph hunt. Problem was, Eric had disappeared, and security was not SPS, but nevertheless very strict and we were on the wrong side of the fence. Our first job was to get on to the pitch and from there closer to the official tent so that at least we had a chance. We slipped past security while their backs were turned and made it over to where the remaining press delegates and a well known SU actor-type were stood. Confusion reigned amongst the small, but persistent group, but the security guard eventually informed us that Eric had left. The group reluctantly dispersed and most made their way to the exit. I took Gina by the hand and we wandered through to the back of the tents past the PA and right through security to where there were two parked vehicles. In a four wheel drive passenger seat, no more than 50 feet away, sat Eric awaiting his driver. Trouble was we had encountered our final obstacle and this one proved impossible to pass. The over-zealous security man took his job very seriously despite the fact we were but two people, one of whom was ten years old who desperately wanted her hero's autograph. I tried every which way without success. It would have done little harm to be allowed through but the hard-faced security man was unmoved even by Gina's tears. So near, yet so far - sometimes you just can't win.

Copyright RED KELLY 2000

Theatre Of Dreams
Eric Cantona

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