This fixture is a traditional part of the Westminister Easter sporting calendar and has been played since 1951 by the Eton Rangers, a one game team assembled with representatives from all parliamentary parties, against a teachers’ invitational XI made up of the great and the good from the educational sporting establishment. Usually televised live by the BBC, this is the first year that it moves to Al Jazeera following the Chancellor’s high profile £500m sale of TV rights for key political matches.
There is a great deal of history associated with this game, particularly the infamous year of the 1990’s Poll Tax riot, which ultimately caused the game to be abandoned due to the severe shortage of Pimms in the central London area. Pimms Saturday, as it became known, still lives on for some Westminister dressing room veterans, and the memory of Big Mick Heseltine loading up his Triumph Stag with a dozen cases of the dark refresher and attempting to break the Trafalgar Square blockade is now the stuff of legend.
Who could forget the grainy old television footage of Big Mick’s Stag as he ploughed through the Militant Tendency, having lost control of his hair in the windy tempest of the Stag’s questionable aerodynamics, shouting “Victory or Westminister Abbey!” Certainly not Thatcher, who reportedly owned a copy of it on both VHS and Betamax, and was understood to consider it his greatest guilty pleasure when Margaret was away on business.
It is not a cliché to say that this match is more a celebration of the beautiful game rather than an occasion to savour the silky skills of the cross party front benches. Stripy blazers, old school ties, brogues and boaters on one terrace. Leather elbows, socks, sandals, cords and plaid on the other. An opportunity for some lively banter between the opposing fans, with the Toff’s home support chanting some of the classics, such as “You’re getting sacked in the morning” and “In your secondary slums” (both available as a Telstar records box set).
This year’s match took an unexpected turn the evening before kick off, with a number of late fitness tests proving calamitous for the Toff’s manager, Joni Bercorini. Injuries to Ballsabio (groin), Cameronaldo (groin), Millibandini (groin), Giorgio Osbo (groin) and Clegginigge (groin) add to the loss of Yvetteotelli who remains suspended for a suspected late challenge next year on Millibandini, and of course Davide Millibandini who famously switched codes after last year’s match to play a game they call Soccer, who is now turning out for the Tracy Island Rockets in the American MLS league.
Bercorini had no option but to turn to one of his bench warming strikers, and Mikaeli Govista got the nod over Arria Armen, who has been out of favour since being photographed drinking jagerbombs at 2am in a nightclub celebrating the Mari Millaclaymovitch red card incident of last week (see previous mid week match report).
Govista was initially thought to be ineligible due to the red card he received for attempting to rap within earshot of the fourth official during the bad tempered Dynamo Labourista match. There followed further protestations from the player that even though he might sound like one, he wasn’t actually a proper toff, so couldn’t possibly play, awfully sorry. He was, in fact, so against institutional elitism that just the very thought of starting the game was causing his ecole-grammaticus to flare up badly, and would they mind if he had the weekend off to take the vapours in Bath Spa? Nothing personal of course dear gentlemen, natch.
Bercorini consulted Cameronaldo on the matter and they both felt that the prospect of losing a key striker on the evening before a match of this importance was unthinkable, particularly in light of the various penalty clauses the Chancellor had been forced to negotiate with Al Jazeera.
The prospect of seeing Govista facing eleven vengeful PE masters guaranteed bums-on-seats, and the pay per view revenue from a number of the less salubrious jurisdictions was a split gate. Bercorini met briefly with the Westminister Sporting Board in the Commons bar shortly before last orders to confirm the starting XI and reinterpret the rules of eligibility accordingly. A spokesman later confirmed that their main responsibility was to provide the maximum value and return for such a high profile taxpayer funded sporting event, and that took precedence over both Govista’s prior infringement and his personal reservations under the principles of natural law. Accordingly, they were delighted to confirm that Govista had been given special dispensation to play.
Govista’s preparations for the match were further compromised by an entirely coincidental practice drill for the special operations division of the Police Parliamentary Protection squad. Govista’s name had been drawn randomly from a hat, and he was therefore required to be the test subject of a new terror alert lockdown protocol which involved him being held overnight in protective custody in a south London safe house.
Fortunately, this drill was scheduled to end five minutes before kick off and the officers were able to deliver Govista to the Corams Field venue just in time for him to join in with the pre-match hand shake. Cameronaldo and Millibandini managed to appear just before the photographers dispersed, and jointly thanked the police special forces for their diligence, once again recognising the commitment and sacrifice of the police and the armed forces in keeping our great nation safe.
As the game neared kick off, Bercorini emerged from the tunnel and immediately took centre stage. His naked body had been coloured with a dark ash from the ceremonial burning of an immense one thousand year old oak tree, with his modesty protected by a specially bred team of stunt peacocks who moved tantalisingly around him, their plumage glistening in the special lighting prepared for this visual feast. Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ pumped out of the stadium PA system, and as Bercorini reached his dugout the crowd were stunned into silence as the peacocks peeled away to reveal his bejewelled wrestling trunks. A crown of polished magnesium was lowered onto his head by a precision team of pure white budgerigars and a robe made from delicate whispers of downy fluff that had been ethically harvested from one thousand new born owls was draped around his shoulders.
Fireworks went off around the ground as he lowered himself regally into his trademark gold plated throne, located centrally within his technical area, with his first retinue of favoured attendants sitting slightly behind and below him. A constant supply of quails eggs poached in white truffle oil were individually presented to him by a number of brightly painted underlings, and he quaffed with aplomb from a three quarter sized, Pimms branded, silver pewter tankard (although he was later forced to deny that the tankard actually contained a delightful Chateau Margaux 1995 masquerading as the fruity refresher).
Bercorini, ever the master of being centre of attention, had decided to abandon his favoured 4:2:1:3 system, and we had expected him to match the teachers’ old school 4:4:2 setup. No one was more surprised than Mikaeli Govista to learn that he was to play as the lone striker in a 9:1 formation, tactics last seen used in the Rome Coliseum circa AD70.
Govista was further dismayed as it was announced to the stadium that the usual official for the game, referee Tremenheere (a descendant of the original Seymour Tremenheere and a semi-professional teacher disliker) had been replaced due to his suffering an entirely unavoidable last minute groin injury. Thankfully, Christine Blofeld of the National Union of Teachers was available to step in at short notice, coincidentally having just completed her refereeing badges that very morning with the Pierluigi Correspondence School of Officialistic Studies, and had been given leave by the NUT to temporarily resign her post in order to maintain her impartiality. With no further delay, Blofeld blew up to get us underway at Corams Field.
I do not feel the need to review proceedings too closely, given the amount of video footage that is now available on youtube, but I should clarify that the Westminister Magister of Clockwork has formally apologised for the coincident failures of the timing system used for the match and also the malfunction of the referee’s two wrist watches. It is exceptional for a game to have had over two hours of time added on, and the Westminister Sporting Board has promised to review its procedures and has taken the precaution of reporting itself to the Parliamentary Standards Review Inquisition.
The Chancellor declared the new match format as an ‘exceptional British success story’ with Al Jazeera reporting audience figures up sixty four percent on last year.
Finally, it should be noted that Govista’s condition is now described as comfortable, and it is hoped he will return to full fitness in time for next year’s match.