We caught up with Brazil based football writer James Young – who writes for The Independent, Sports Illustrated, The Blizzard, and World Soccer, among others – to talk grotesque Manchester City shirts, Kinky wonder goals and skimpy Brazilian shorts.
What was your first football shirt?
I have a feeling it was either a Linfield home shirt, or (gulp) the grotesque 1986 Manchester City red and black checks away kit. Choosing your “English team” in Northern Ireland was a curious business then – most people made the decision based on who their mates or their dad supported or who was winning stuff (and therefore on TV all the time).
In those days it was invariably United or Liverpool. My acute sense of impending doom had obviously developed early, so I supported City because nobody else did, and because Sammy Mcllroy played for them (little did I know that the ageing Sammy, as a Utd legend, was not much loved on the Kippax). It was a decision that has haunted me ever since (until recently, of course, when City dramatically metamorphosed into An Entirely Different Club, started winning, and things got decidedly worse).
What is your favourite shirt?
I must admit I’ve never thought about it before, but the Brazil 1982 team will forever be branded on my heart, not least because that was the World Cup when Northern Ireland`s boys of summer had their moment of glory.
When I close my eyes and imagine what the past looks like, I don`t get much further than Socrates and Zico and Falcão and the rest strolling around in the Spanish sun, all skinny ankles and skimpy shorts and that immortal yellow shirt. I’ve lived in Brazil for the last eight years now, but I’ve never felt the urge to buy one – it would seem like sacrilege.
What is your favourite goal?
Would have to be Giorgi Kinkladze’s “Lionel Who?” moment of twinkle-toed genius for Man City against Southampton in 1996.
I remember it being a freezing, dank afternoon (it always seemed to be a freezing, dank afternoon in those days), and sitting in the pub (The Salutation, Hulme) until well after kick-off, arguing about whether it was even worth going or not (this was in the middle of Alan Ball’s Maine Road reign of terror, and it was nice and warm in the pub).
Eventually, we dragged ourselves up the road to the ground, just in time to see something truly magical that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’m probably a weary old cynic, but perhaps that’s why the memories I retain of football back then seem so special – they were moments of illumination set against a generally bleak, barren landscape, as opposed to today’s slicker, glossier parade of unrelenting (and a tiny bit tedious) brilliance.
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