My call-up to international football

As if getting an email from Alain de Botton wasn’t a surreal enough experience recently, I received an offer the other day to represent Great Britain at football.

The best explanation is simply to share the email I received:

Hi Simon,

We’ve no met but here goes something a bit different. You might be interested, you might no.

There is a European Writers football tournament in June (18th – 24th) in Israel. The GB team have had some call offs. Firstly, do you play fitba? And would you be interested in playing in Haifa in June? Cost is 250 euros per player, all other costs covered by Israeli hosts.

Mad, I know, but let me ken if this is for you, or if you need more info.

Cheers,
Matthew Fitt

My surprise was obvious. For a start, I’m not very good at football, but also I’m hardly a prolific or well-known writer. For the barrel to be scraped sufficiently for me to be a potential player, the call-offs must have been numbering in the tens of thousands. Has there been a flu epidemic?

I had indeed not met Matthew, nor did I recognise his name. But I did discover that he is the author of a book I’ve often flicked through but never read – But N Ben A Go Go, the first science fiction work ever to be written in Scots.

I can’t find much information online about the European Writers football tournament (which makes me think it might perhaps be a slight level or two below the European Championships), but did find this report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about a previous tournament.

The idea of a writers’ football match also brings to mind the suitably absurd Monty Python sketch about German and Greek philosophers squaring up on the football pitch.

On a more serious note, at the back of my mind linger a couple of ethical dilemmas. While I am not convinced I fully support the BDS movement with regards to Israel I still do have concerns about going there. And also, I’m not sure if a passionate supporter of Scottish independence such as myself could really square his conscience with representing Great Britain.

Just as well I had to turn Matthew down. It would clash with the Solas Festival which I am going to this summer (and which I spoke at last year), and I really don’t want to miss that.

Maybe the call will come again whenever the tournament is next held. By then, perhaps, I’ll have more than one three year old book to my name…

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