I am Marcus Tullius Cicero and I died over two thousand years ago. My last appearance in the Forum was when my head and hands were nailed separately to the Rostra, after I had been red carded by Mark Anthony.
I was invited to attend a game at the Londinium Stadium, where I was expecting to watch discus, javelin and running competitions, but , instead, watched two teams playing a new game , called football.
It reminded me of a game we had , called Harpastum. After sacrificing a sheep to Mars, the intestines would be blown up and then the teams would kick it around., whilst engaging in different forms of violence to prevent the opponents from getting to the ball. So nothing much has changed there.
The football game also reminded me of the gladiatorial contests I witnessed in the Colosseum. Although the participants in football are not armed with weapons, the plebeians seated around the Londinium Stadium shouted and sang encouragements and would appear to be happy if the opposition were hacked to death. They referred to their team as ‘The Ferra’.
There was a more salubrious area, reserved for the patricians and the main patrician watched the event behind a glass screen to prevent his assassination, presumably by a pilum (spear).
Apparently, each of the centurions engaged in the battle earned huge amounts of money. But, I reminded my host that the charioteer, Diocles earned 35 million sesterces, which in modern money is about 7 billion pounds, based on the silver content. There was also a gladiator, called Tetraites, who always won the league, with the rest of the league being dead at the end of the season.
A character called Pellegrini watched the game from a huge area on the edge of the pitch. I noticed Pellegrini had a Roman nose and I am sure I saw him the in the Forum just the other day. He reminded me of Julius Caesar in the way he urged on his men to battle.
I was informed about the rudimentary rules of the game and it seemed the centurions from the claret and blue army had just as limited an idea of the rules as myself, as a man called a referee had to be present. When gladiators fought, we didn’t need such a person, except at the end when the crowd indicated by the use of the thumbs whether the defeated gladiator would live or die.
Apparently, our claret and blue army had marched to Burnley ,which is a few leagues north of Mamucium, a few days previously, where it’s no wonder they were too tired to engage in battle and lost badly. Some blamed the quartermaster for a late arrival from a previous battle at Southampton.
West Ham seemed to start slowly and Brighton surely had more men on the pitch, or, it might have seemed that because of their bright yellow costumes. Philipus Andersus seemed full of tricks, but none seemed to work. Brighton appeared to be the better organised and their supporters who numbered but two thousand outsang the West Ham supporters, who must largely comprise somnambulists.
I must say the West Ham centurions looked as if they had never fought a battle together and their ball passing was atrocious. However, to give them their due, they did seem to get the better of Brighton as the game progressed and Brighton seemed to lack bite in front of goal.
Overall, my impression was this was a dull gamer and this belief was reinforced by a supporter who shouted , ‘This is duller than Brexit’, whatever that meant.
In the second half, Pilipus had a good run where he threaded his way through the defence, but his shot was just wide. Then, disaster struck. I had never seen a corner before and it would appear the West Ham players were just as naïve. Twice, within a short period, Brighton scored from corners, once when the goalkeeper Fabulus only manage to punch a ball out to a Brighton player and the other time when West Ham failed to cover a thing called their far post.
Then, the brilliance of Pellegrini shone through. He brought on Antonius and Noblus and the immediately the injected what we always teach in the Roman army – ENERGY, INTENSITY and CONFIDENCE. West Ham were an army transformed. Noblus made a great pass to Marcus Arnautus and he scored superbly and then a couple of minutes later Antonius got to the byline and crossed to Marcus who scored again. It was a great thing for him because he shall have his confidence back, but hopefully it won’t be for the blue army of Chelsea.
Anyway, each army kept its honour and withdrew from the battlefield with honours even. I decided I wouldn’t go to the baths and cut my wrists, but look forward to the next game.
Felix novus annus.
Please check back after the match for the results.