My soccer groundhopping trips don’t really begin until I talk footy at UK customs. And this last time was a classic.
First, the line was short — always a welcome sight after 11 hours on a plane from the US West Coast. I topped up my English SIM standing in line, feeling very connected and seasoned, and then strolled up to the desk, full of anticipation.
“What brings you over,” the agent said without looking up.
“I’ve come to watch football,” I said.
Pause. Still looking at my passport.
A raised eyebrow.
“Ours or yours?”
“Yours,” I said. “As soon as I get here I leave ‘soccer’ behind and start saying ‘football’.”
Then he looked at me, and smiled, and said, “Ah, good man!”
I’m not gonna lie; I love it when Brits give me a “Good man” or a “Good lad.”
So now we’re talking!
“Do you have a club,” I asked.
“Coventry City,” he said.
“I haven’t been there yet” — and as soon as I said it, I knew what was coming!
A big smile, and a “Don’t bother!” He laughed out loud and added, “It isn’t worth it, mate!”
Now I’m a mate, and I’m sure I had a big grin on my face.
With a hearty stamp, he said with a smile, “Enjoy your trip!” And in that moment, my trip began — and in what better way than with classically English self-deprecation.