Soccerates, the god of football, has origins deep in the mists of time. Originally his rites of worship were violent melees between two rival villages as a kind of pseudo battle which resulted in a marginally lower body count than all out warfare. Over the years these savage, barbaric rituals gradually evolved into the beautiful game that is loved all over the world today. For example, not many people know that in medieval times, prior to pig’s bladders being used, early footballs were made from inflated cockerel scrotums. This practice was quickly abandoned because it resulted in a lot of fowl balls.
The core followers of Soccerates are devout fans who turn out every week, rain or shine, hell or high water, defeat or glory to praise the god and loyally cheer on third division Forest Wonderers United. Each wearing a coloured shirt to display their affiliation to their chosen sub-sect or “team”. Every Saturday afternoon from August to May, they stalwartly perch on precarious stands made from old scaffolding poles and milk crates with only a dubious pie for sustenance and comfort. They endure by raising their voices together in song. The cult of Soccerates is famous for its beautiful hymns such as the haunting barcarolle, “Stercora Estis et Noscitis” by Offenside*.
The priests of Soccerates are known as “Pundits”. The key requirements for becoming a pundit are; a reasonably successful football playing career, a general lack of optimism and the ability to wear a bad suit and keep your knees at least six feet apart at all times whilst manspreading the good word. They play almost no role in the actual running of the religion; their job is to discuss everything that has gone wrong with football since they stopped playing. The cult is also renowned for its miraculous faith healers, known as the “Physios”. A player can flop like a sack of wet cement, and the Physios are seemingly able to raise them from the dead with the Sacred Wet Sponge.
The great high temple of Soccerates is located in Wembley. This is where the faithful gather on the most holy occasions to raise their voices as they watch their team Kane the opposition into submission. Visitors always enter the temple by the south gate. Here you can see the sacred beasts of Soccerates, three lions that are called leopards that are actually lions. At the centre of the temple lies the “hallowed turf”, which is diligently re-hallowed every week without fail by a fully qualified turf hallower. High above this veldt, the Pundits sit in their suspended glass box, which creates the illusion that they are on the Sky.
Once every two years the ranks of Soccerates faithful swell exponentially in number when an international football tournament takes place. Most of these occasional worshippers are simply enjoying the fun, the sense of occasion and the festive atmosphere (a bit like folks who go to church once a year at Christmas). However, there are a few of these part-time worshippers who seem to feel that, at these times, they need to compensate for their intermittent dedication with excessive public displays of devotion. They form a heretical cult known as “Ingerlaanders”.
Ingerlaanders are typically people who aren’t bothered about being involved in European affairs when it comes to the serious work of cooperating as an international community, but don’t want to be left out at playtime. They often seem to be confused about whether this is all about sport or international tensions. It is the Ingerlaanders who sometimes rudely confuse unfortunate Germany fans by singing “Two World Wars and One World Cup” at them. If a full-time true devotee of Soccerates witnesses this kind of appalling abuse, they will be enraged and give the Ingerlaander a red card (which is no small matter, there will be penalties). If ever they are not there to step in, fortunately, every German knows that the correct response to this is, “Actually, Germany has won four World Cups”.
An Ingerlaander is easily recognised by their red and white face paint, £45 football shirt and general state of inebriation. The leader of the Ingerlaanders, Mr George Crosse, has festooned his home with so many England flags that, from a distance, it looks like the whole house has been draped in a gingham tablecloth. When the wind and rain get up, the snapping of wet pennants sounds like a free-for-all towel fight in a locker room. You may spot George as he drives to the pub to watch the match in his official car, which is ornamented ambassador-style with even more little flags. During the match and ritual imbibing of many pints of ale, the landlord will quietly hide his car keys, so that George has to put his Best foot forward as he wends his merry way home.
*A genius who was, sadly, never really understood.
With thanks to Kate Durrant for, once again, getting me out of the “stercus” with my Latin translations.
In about a week’s time I will be going into hospital for an operation. It shouldn’t be anything to worry about, but I am going to be laid up for a bit afterwards. Unfortunately, I am unlikely to be laid in a position that is comfortable for drawing. Therefore, after today, I will be taking the rest of July off from cartooning. My plan, all being well, is to be back for the traditional Idol Scribblings Yorkshire Day special on August 1st. I look forward to seeing you all again then. Wish me luck!
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