A 250-pound bloke with hair spiked like pineapple skin cannot help overhearing. "You'll be all right here," he assures us, shooing away Adam's apple. The man is Butch from Bristol, and he says he has followed England—literally followed the team—for 10 years. He and friends Marco and Joe are commuting to this World Cup from the west coast of England. This is their fourth trip to France in three weeks. "We're just here for the football," he says. "They were asking 600 quid for tickets outside the stadium. That's what, $1,000? So we're watching it here."
The entire bar sings God Save the Queen before kickoff, and the rest of the evening unfolds in song. Argentina scores first on a penalty kick and—to the tune of If You're Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands—the whole of Snack Bar belts out a chorus of: "If it wasn't for the English you'd be Krauts."
When Alan Shearer gets the equalizer for England, a man to my right turns and hugs me, his train-wreck smile reminding me of Austin Powers. "Keep St. George in my heart, keep me English," the crowd sings. "Keep St. George in my heart, I pray. Keep St. George in my heart, keep me English. Keep me English till my dying day." Which segues, oddly and immediately, into "No surrender, no surrender, no surrender to the IRA!"
Moments later 18-year-old English phenomenon Michael Owen scores a spectacular go-ahead goal, the best of the World Cup, and the crowd goes Snack Barmy. Snack Bar is a mosh pit. I am knocked to the ground but recover to sing—to the tune of Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore—"Michael Owen scores the goals, Al-le-loo-oo-ia!"
But just before half Argentina makes it 2-2, and English anger turns toward the retired Maradona. To Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, everyone sings, "Mar-a-dona! Mar-a-dona! Isawanker! Isawanker! Isaway-ay-anker!"
So it goes, through David Beckham's being sent off for England in the 47th minute for kicking an Argentinian player, through the entire scoreless second half, through 30 scoreless minutes of extra time. Before the grim vigil of the penalty kicks, 100 English in Snack Bar sway as one, singing—to Auld Lang Syne—"We're proud of you, we're proud of you, we're proud of you, we're proud...."
But many in the crowd have turned their backs to the TV, unable to look, for penalties always go wrong for England, which lost on them to Germany in the semifinals of the '90 World Cup and to Germany again in the semis of the '96 European championships. As if prepared for the inevitable, three guys behind me sing—to the tune of She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain When She Comes—"We'll be right nasty bastards if we lose!" They sound serious.
On the final penalty kick David Batty places the ball on the spot, measures off his steps and bangs his shot off the goalkeeper's hands. England loses and Snack Bar goes batty. Several fans slump onto tables, but many more pour into the streets. Bottles are thrown, V signs are flashed, epic profanity rains on all unlucky pedestrians. Hundreds of police in riot gear rumble up the pavement of the narrow streets. Three men in handcuffs are shoveled into paddy wagons. Four paper-hatted teenagers stand inside a locked and unlit McDonald's, waiting until it is safe to leave.
We make for the car and head out of town after midnight, and from every precinct come three sounds: the barking of dogs, the breaking of glass and the donkey bray of French police sirens going ee-yore ee-yore ee-yore....
WEDNESDAY, JULY 1: Ozoir-Brazil