NETS, BALLS AND BRIDGE BUILDING

England’s most adventurous and least famous football team takes on a mission of sporting friendship in Myanmar.英格蘭最富冒險精神、知名度最低的足球隊遠征緬甸,藉體育運動伸出友誼

Discovery - - CONTENTS 目錄 - By MARK JONES之手。撰文: Mark Jones

After tours of Syria, Pakistan and Eastern Europe, MARK JONES and his football team go head to head with Myanmar’s finest

以足球搭建友誼之橋

到過敘利亞、巴基斯坦與東歐作賽後, Mark Jones與他的球隊迎戰緬甸勁旅

Walk around any city in Asia and you’ll see people in English football shirts: Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea – all with the name of the wearer’s favourite player on the back.

You won’t see many Racing Club de Blackheath replica jerseys.

It’s partly a question of recognition – what is the Racing Club de Blackheath? – and partly one of quality. Made of lowtech, unbreathable South London cotton, after one wash the Blackheath shirt usually becomes a shapeless mess. Over the years they have been washed in rivers, mountain pools and zero-star-hotel sinks.

Still, there were plenty on show in Yangon’s East Hotel on the morning I got there. There was Chris in the 2001 Cuba tour version, Foster in the 2004 Pakistan. I had my classic Slovenia and Croatia 10th anniversary top. Now we had our new Myanmar tour shirts.

I’m tempted to say the bodies underneath match the quality of the outer garment. Even if a percentage of those middle-aged bodies have retained shapes dimly recognisable as the same ones that stepped onto the pitches of Poland in 1989 or Russia in 1993, the internal workings have taken an inevitable hammering. Among the players showing up for duty at the East Hotel, we counted one liver transplant, a recent heart operation and a captain prone to blackouts. That’s before you get onto the physiotherapy situation. Until Lebanon 1999, I was injury-free. The Achilles tendon injured on that tour was soon followed by calf muscles, knees, groin, lower back and adductor muscles.

Back to the question. What is the Racing Club de Blackheath?

We are a football team from the London ‘village’ of that name. Even in our younger days, we weren’t very good. But we have something special. While Barcelona has tika-taka and Liverpool the gegenpress, we have our own trademark: pioneering international diplomacy.

The annual Blackheath tour has a basic rule: favour destinations that have just undergone or might be about to go through profound political or social upheaval.

So we were in Poland in the year communism collapsed. We toured Eastern Europe as the former Soviet states gained their freedom. With a new century and a changed international landscape, we ventured to Lebanon, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. We toured Syria at a time when, briefly, it looked as if the country would emerge from repression and dictatorship.

As a theory of travel it is beautifully simple. Ignore politics and social differences, past wars and current tensions: football is a bond. We get our games through embassies, football associations, hearsay. There have been epic mismatches, such as the time we took on a team of Iranian ex-internationals or the game against the Latvian third division champions. Actually,

在亞洲任何一個城市裡閒逛,隨時都會見到有人穿著阿仙奴、利物浦或車路士等蘭英格足球會的球衣,背面部全 印著穿著者最喜愛的球員名字。

不過你難得見到有人穿著印有Racing Club de Blackheath的球衣。

原因有兩個:首先是知名度的題問 :究竟Racing Club de Blackheath是何方神聖其? 次就是品質。Blackheath球衣採用不透氣的南倫方棉以低科技縫製而成,只洗一次就往往走樣得不成形狀。多年來,這些球衣都只會被人拿往河流、山澗和廉價酒店的洗手盆裡洗濯。

不過,我來到仰光East酒店那天早上,就見到有許多件Blackheath球衣在眼晃前來晃去。Chris身上穿的是2001年古巴之旅的版本,而Foster那就件是2004年基巴斯坦之旅的,至於我自己,穿則 著經典的斯洛文尼亞與克羅地亞十周年紀念之旅的上衣。,現在 我們有全新的緬甸之旅球衣。

我禁不住說想 ,那些裹在衣服下的軀體,穿與在身上的衣品服的 質相,比真是不相。伯仲 那些已屆中年的身軀即使仍勉強保留了一點1989年在波或蘭 1993年在俄羅斯馳騁球場時的身形,身體內部的機能卻

無法避免勞損。前來East酒店準備參加比賽的球員之中,有一位進行了移另肝臟 植,一位近接最 剛 受心臟,手術 而隊長更隨時有昏厥的可能我; 還未講到那些需要接受物理治療的隊友。我一向從未受傷,但自從1999年在黎巴嫩之旅弄傷了阿基里斯腱後,小腿肌肉、、膝蓋 腹股溝、背下 部和大腿內收肌就陸續受傷。

回前到 面的問題。究竟Racing Club de Blackheath是何方神聖?

其實我們是一支足球隊,名字取倫自方的同名「村。莊」 即使在我們年紀輕尚的時候,表現也不是太好。可是我們也有些與眾不同地的 方。塞巴 羅那有密集短傳的tika- taka戰利術, 物浦擅長gegenpress壓迫性反擊,而我們的招牌特色則是擔任國際外交先鋒。

球的隊 年度之旅有基一項 本原則選:擇一個剛剛或即將面臨重大政治或社會劇變的地方,然後前往進行比賽。

因此,我們波在 蘭共產主義倒台那一年前往當地。蘇聯解體後多, 個國家重獲自由之際,我行們舉 東歐之旅。踏入新世紀,國際換上新形我勢, 們的足跡於是遍佈黎巴嫩、、、古巴 伊朗 巴基斯坦和烏茲別克。敘利亞一曾 度似乎能夠掙脫壓迫和獨裁的

時侯,我們亦前往當地作賽。

到各地進行球賽的道理再簡單不過:足球有一種凝聚力,教人暫且放下政治和社會差異,以及今昔的鬥爭和衝突。有說人是大使館和足球總會為我們安排賽事的,那完全是傳。聞 我們曾碰上實力差天共地的對手例, 如伊朗一支由前國家隊成員組成的隊伍,以及拉脫維亞丙組聯賽冠軍。雖然如此,我隊結果卻將拉脫維亞隊擊敗;至於為何我們在沒有碰到球的情況下竟然勝出,對至手 今仍然大惑不解。

現在我, 們採奧取 巴馬總統的外交政策將, 目光轉往東看。經過中亞烏茲別克之旅喜拉與 瑪 雅地區尼泊爾之旅後,決我們定將廣受群眾歡迎國帶的英 足球 到更遙遠的東方去,而緬甸看來是個不俗的選擇。

於是我們來到了仰光,並且在《Lonely Planet》形容為「設計型格的潮人聖地」Rangoon Tea House茶館散漫而隨意觀地光整了一 個上午(散漫隨意的程度簡直無人及能 )我。 們的打扮既不有型亦不甚有格,與潮人更完全沾不上邊是,可 侍應仍然替我們找了張桌子;我坐們 下來大啖印度咖哩角和子,還有其他食物,全是都 一些在現代球員經科學設計的營養餐單內找不到的東西。

we beat the Latvians. They’re still wondering how we did it without touching the ball.

Now, like President Obama’s foreign policy, we’ve been pivoting to the East. After tours to Central Asia (Uzbekistan) and the Himalayas (Nepal) the time had come to capitalise on English football’s huge popularity further east. Myanmar looked like a good choice.

So there we were in Yangon, after a morning’s desultory sightseeing (no one does desultory better) in the Rangoon Tea House, described by Lonely Planet as a ‘stylishly designed hipster’ place. We were neither stylishly designed, nor hipster, but they found us a table and we tucked into samosas, bao and other things that do not form part of the modern footballer’s scientifically designed nutrition programme.

It was a chance to compare hats. Hats, the cheaper and sillier the better, are as important a part of the Blackheath armoury as the terrible football shirts. Steve, the tour chronicler and midfield genius (anyone who can pass the ball 10 metres in a straight line is a midfield genius for us), had managed to locate a cheap bamboo pith helmet of the kind favoured by British colonial administrators in the days when Myanmar – then called Burma – was part of the British Empire.

No one objected, other than on fashion grounds. The same went for our visit to Yangon’s magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda. The British rulers showed their disdain for local religious sensitivities by refusing to remove their shoes when entering the pagoda. We did. It’s possible some people wished we hadn’t.

The team went milling about somewhere, while I checked into a more prepossessing reminder of British rule, the old Governor’s Residence – now transformed into an elegant, shaded, hospitable and very un-Blackheath-like five-star hotel run by hotel group Belmond. My friends Lara and Gav took me to Rau Ram, a cool bar and restaurant that’s very much at the forefront of revitalised Yangon. If the city is to undergo the kind of transformation that the likes of Hanoi and Phnom Penh have been through, then Rau Ram points the way.

But let’s also hope that the architectural legacy of the former Rangoon doesn’t get swept away in the tourism and moneymaking frenzy.

I’ve seen plenty of towns – Tallinn (Estonia), Budapest (Hungary), Riga (Latvia), Tbilisi (Georgia), Baku (Azerbaijan) – go from run-down and atmospheric to glitzed-up in the years after a Blackheath tour. If we had an ounce of entrepreneurial zeal we’d have bought property in all the places we’d visited. An apartment in Prague at 1991 prices? We’d be multimillionaires. We could afford proper football shirts.

So to football. The Yangon United football pitch wasn’t the worst we’d played on (Nepal – crater running seven metres into the pitch from the touchline) or the best (Azerbaijan’s national stadium), but it was the wettest. The monsoon rain puddles slowed down the opposition, who only beat us 4-2. My hamstring went just before half time.

The next days saw more milling and mustering in airports and hotel lobbies as we travelled to Bagan and Inle Lake and cruised on the Irrawaddy River. It was the end of the rainy season. In a closely fought contest, the sun won the Southeast Asia Tropospheric Tournament. But it’s Myanmar: the storm clouds are never far away.

This is the standard tourist itinerary: but only the most grim-faced off-the-beatentracker would be anything but swept away by the places we saw.

Bagan – a landscape of 2,000-plus temples dotted around the plains on the Mandalay side of the Irrawaddy – inevitably gets compared to Angkor Wat. We set off to see the temples at dusk, squashing through the fields in light pony carts, some teammates unkindly comparing the ponies’ perky little trot to the running style that has given me so many muscularskeletal issues over the years.

這時也是各自拿出帽子來比拼一番的大好時機。帽子與我隊那件糟的糕 球衣一樣是, Blackheath戰衣的重要配件,價以 錢愈、愈便宜 款式 滑稽為上。負責紀錄旅程沿途大事的Steve是一位天才中場(對我們來說,所有能直傳夠 線 球十米的人都是天才中場) ,找他 到一頂便宜的竹製遮陽帽,款式是英國殖民地官員喜歡的;那種 那個時代緬甸的英文名稱仍叫作Burma,這裡仍是大英的。帝國 國土

除了時尚品味有待商榷外,沒有人對那頂帽子有異議。,同樣 對於前往參觀富麗堂皇的仰光大金寺,沒也 有人表示。異議 昔日的英國統治者拒絕在進入寺廟時脫鞋,以示對當地宗教規條的輕蔑。而我們都乖乖脫掉鞋子──雖然可能有人希望我們沒有那樣做。

當球隊其他成員往別處閒逛時,我則前往依然洋溢昔日英國統治遺風的總督官邸一遊。官邸現已成為Belmond集團旗下的級,五星 酒店 氣派高雅,綠蔭掩映,服務體貼周到,與我隊的風格可謂南轅北轍。我的朋友Lara和Gav帶我前往Rau Ram,這家有型有格的酒吧餐廳在重拾活力的仰光市,內 可說是得風氣之先。若果這個城市想跟河內和金邊那樣來個大變,麼身 那 Rau Ram就是一個可供參考的。榜樣

不過,我們同樣希望仰光昔日的傳統建築不會被觀光業和賺錢至上的心態趕盡殺。絕

我目睹不少城鎮,在Blackheath球隊來過之後,紛紛洗卻萎靡不振的風氣,換上一片繁華景象;例如愛沙尼亞的塔林、匈牙

IT’S ONLY THE MOST GRIM- FACED OFF- THE- BEATEN- TRACKER WHO WOULD BE ANYTHING BUT SWEPT AWAY BY THESE PLACES只有那些最執著於另闢蹊徑、一臉認真的旅人,才會對那些地方著迷

The 11th century Shwesandaw Pagoda is currently where everyone congregates to see the sunset and survey one of southern Asia’s more majestic scenes. Everyone was allowed to clamber up the fragile brick terraces to take their photographs: until the ban on tourists setting foot on these ancient monuments was recently reimposed. In this emerging economy, the interests of conservationists, tourism operators and the Ministry of Culture struggle to gain the upper hand. It’s currently 2-1 to the culture lobby.

Fewer tourists opt to view the temples from the Nyaung U Playground. But if you are more used to playing your football matches with a backdrop of London train tracks and tower blocks, even a couple of minor, crumbling stupas make for an impossibly romantic view beyond the touchline.

Homemade banners and flags advertised the Friendship Football Match against SMC GG Eleven, which, true to that friendly spirit, we lost.

At this point – and there is usually a point like this on tour – we began to be concerned that friendship was all very well, but prestige was at stake. We needed to win the last game.

But preparations, again, were not what you’ll find in a Fifa coaching manual. We found ourselves in a pleasant riverside hotel on Inle Lake, talking tactics over Myanmar beers until early in the morning. The next day we went out on a flotilla of long, low boats for a big lunch and to see the lake villages. The rain beat down, then the sun. My dodgy legs turned a colonial pink.

Tourism has brought people to the stilted bamboo villages, to buy silks and silver and to sample the spicy Inle cuisine. Like all settlements on the water, you find yourself marvelling at the sheer ingenuity of life here, every village a rudimentary Venice of walkways, bridges and floating gardens. Most ingenious of all is the way the fishermen negotiate their way through the reed-filled channels, one leg wrapped around the oar, the other tiptoe on the prow. I didn’t try it. My physiotherapist would have kittens.

But I was just about mobile enough for the last game in the regional capital of Taunggyi: off the main tourist map, and all the more welcoming for it. This was the single most moving and noisy reception we’d ever had on tour. Drums were pounded, cymbals clashed, plastic banners reading Welcome Racing Old Stars Club displayed, and complaints that we were an hour late for the match unmade.

And, finally, we won. It was getting pretty dark by the time I managed to scoop the ball over the goalkeeper for our final goal. My various ligaments and joints strained, but stayed intact. The final whistle blew. We partied on the pitch in the dusk and everyone hugged everyone else. No one asked where David Beckham was. A little bit of a new bridge had been built.

PRESTIGE WAS AT STAKE. WE NEEDED TO WIN THE LAST GAME球隊的聲譽岌岌可危,我們需在最後一場比賽中勝出

利的布達佩斯、拉脫維亞的里加、格魯吉亞的第比利斯,以及阿塞拜疆的巴庫等,莫不如此。要是我們稍有為 點投資創業的熱忱,當年就會在所到之處購置物試業。 想想,1991年在布拉格購買一個公寓單位的價錢是多少?如果當年真的這樣做,我們現在成都 了億萬富豪,可以負擔起得 體面的球衣了。

現在說說足球吧我。 們往過曾行進 比賽的場地中, Yangon United球會的場球 並非最差的(那是尼泊爾,那個球場有個長達七米的巨坑從, 邊線一直伸延至場內) ,亦不屬最佳(那是阿塞拜疆的國家球場) ,但卻最為濕滑。由於季候雨令球場出多上 現 個水窪,對手的攻勢因而減慢,最終只四以 比二小勝我隊。可惜在半場完結之前,我就已經拉傷腿筋了。

隨後數天,我們出入多個機場和店酒大到以堂, 仰光 北的蒲甘和茵萊湖去,還乘船遊覽洛伊 瓦底江雨。 季快將結束,與雲層經一過 輪爭持後,太陽結果險勝不。 過在緬甸,遠不 處總有雨在暴 雲頭頂上盤桓。

這是到緬甸觀光的標準行程,,不過 只有那些最執著於另闢蹊徑、一臉認真的旅人,才會對地迷那些 方著 。

蒲甘當地有超過2,000座廟寺 ,遍佈伊洛瓦底江畔的曼德勒平原一帶常,經 被人拿來與吳哥窟相提論並 。我們在黃昏時分出發參觀廟寺 ,坐在由小拉馬 的輕盈馬車上,穿越田有野, 些友不隊 更 懷好意地把小馬神氣的步伐跟我這些年來因多種筋腱問題導致的跑步方比式作 較。

建於世11 紀的瑞山陀佛塔日落時分景色壯麗,冠絕東南亞,近年吸引不少人前來觀賞。人人爭相爬上弱脆 的磚砌陽台上拍照,由於太多踏人 足這些古蹟之上,當局近日重新禁止遊客進入古蹟內。在這個發展中的經濟體裡,保育人士、旅遊者業 和國家文化部都想讓自己的立場佔上風,而目前在這場遊說角力中,文化以二比一暫時領先。

很少遊客會良從 烏遊樂場遠眺廟寺 景色,但如果你像我們那樣,習慣在倫敦的火車軌和高樓大廈襯托下進行足球比賽,那麼即使球場邊線外只有幾個不知名而且搖搖欲墜的佛塔,已經構成一極浪幅 度 漫的景色了。

當地人以自家製的橫額和幟旗 ,傳宣 我

們與SMC GG Eleven球隊的足球友誼賽。我

隊貫徹友誼第一的精神在, 比賽中落敗。

這時(球隊在外地作賽時總會有這樣的一個時刻) ,我開們 始感到友誼然固 美 好,但球聲隊的 譽卻岌岌可危。我們需要勝出後場最 一 比賽。

不過我隊的前賽 準備,同跟樣 國際足球總會在教練指南裡列出的標準差天共地。我們置身茵湖萊 一家優雅怡人的湖畔酒店一, 邊討論戰術一, 邊暢飲緬甸啤酒,直至凌晨。時分 第二天,我們乘坐多艘船身長而淺的小艇浩浩蕩蕩出發,用過豐富的午餐後,還到湖畔的村莊觀光番一 。途中一度下雨,後來再度放晴,我那雙不中用的腿也被曬成殖民地時代流行的那種粉色紅。

旅遊業令當地的棚屋村莊人頭湧湧,旅客往那裡購買綢絲 和銀,器 並且一嚐茵萊的道地香辣。菜式如一 其他於水上聚居的社群,這裡展現的生活巧思令人讚歎不已,每個村莊都恍似簡樸版的威尼斯,建有走道橋、 樑和水上花園。而漁民在佈滿蘆葦的河道上穿梭的法方 ,更是令人拍案叫絕;他們用一條腿著勾 船槳,然後踮起另一隻腳腳的 尖踏上船頭我。沒有嘗試照做,不然我的物理治療師肯定暴跳如雷。

幸好,我活的 動能力足以應付在東枝行後場進 最 一 比賽;這個地區首府在觀光地圖上不見蹤影,當地卻人 十分熱情。進場時見到眾人敲鑼擊,鈸 高懸的塑膠橫額上寫著「Welcome Racing Old Stars Club」(歡迎老明星球會)有,還 人投訴球賽遲了一小時還未開始這; 是我隊在外地作賽以來,受到最感人最熱鬧的歡迎儀式。

最後,我贏們 了天。 色漸暗之際,我終於成功令球皮 越過守門員,射入終極一球。我全多的身處 韌帶和關節都繃緊起來幸,好並無任何扭完傷。 場的哨子聲響我起,們在色的場暮 中 球 上慶祝,互相擁抱。沒有人問David Beckham在哪裡。經此一役,一道新的橋樑始開 建立起來了。

H K U N L AT PHOTOGRAPHY

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