London diaries | The sweet embrace of the crowd

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The Arsenal Underground station has been brightened with a mural celebrating the club’s 93 years at Highbury.

London | Part 2 of the diary finally arrives, featuring evenings at Upton Park and Highbury. At Upton Park, home to West Ham United, we fake a Cockney accent and most of the words to “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.”

[O]nce among the crowds, raising my digital camera high with the portable phones, I felt compelled to join in singing “two-nil to the Cockney boys” after a drag-back and goal from Hammers midfielder Yossi Benayoun. Patter from the crowd was accented and employed colorful adjectives. My wife said she heard a monkey-related remark spewed toward referee Uriah Rennie. Such language is chilling, but I surprised myself while watching West Ham, and again at Arsenal, by my willingness to say things aloud that I had no place saying or that I did not believe. I had underestimated the Zelig-like compulsion to blend in as well as the security that comes from having one’s actions masked in numbers. And we were all, in some way, part of invading armies.

Read the full posting at Part 1, of course, remains available. We welcome your comments.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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