27 June 2008

This Entry Rated R for Foul Language

It's all Russian foul language, but still. You've been warned.

I went out last night, briefly, for the Russia vs. Spain semi-final of the Euro Cup soccer tournament. (Russia lost.) By the time I went out at 10 p.m. (45 minutes before the match started), the streets were packed with people waving Russian flags, wearing white, blue and red face paint, drinking and generally making merry. Almost every car had a Russian flag waving out the window, and many of the drivers were honking madly as they drove down Taganrog's main street. "You wouldn't see anything like this in America!" one of the guys I was with exclaimed.

[Actually, it kind of bothers me when people who have never been to America say things like that. How would he know? Amara and I once made a list of Things Russians Think Are Uniquely Russian But Aren't, such as mittens and birch trees. But that's another story.]

Anyway, I think he's right that sports hooliganism with a patriotic tinge is something you don't really see in America; maybe that's because we don't participate in very many international competitions – except the Olympics, which somehow don't seem that conducive to drunken rioting – or because our internal rivalries (college basketball, NFL, MLB, etc.) take up all our energy. Either way, I don't regret our lack of sports patriotism or feel jealous when I see Russia's. It's a bit too much like nationalism (the bad kind) for my taste.

Still, it was interesting to be out in the streets, and in the huge crowd gathered around an outdoor café's projector screen where we ended up. I only stayed through the first half because I couldn't see anything and the cigarette smoke was nauseating, but it was still interesting to observe. The cheers people were shouting may have been the most amusing part. Apparently the lack of cheerleading in European football culture has been sorely felt.

Worst cheer:
Olé, olé olé olé,
Rossiya vperyod!

(Rossiya vperyod means "Russia – forward!" and is the equivalent of "Go, Russia!!!" But you don't need to speak Russian to see that syllabically, it doesn't quite fit in the space that would normally hold two more "olés.")

Most obvious cheer:
Nuzhen gol! Nuzhen gol!
("We need a goal! We need a goal!" I can't really fault them, though, since we have the same kind of thing: "We, we want, a touchdown, Bulldogs! We, we want, a touchdown!")

Other cheers:
Pobeda nasha –
Ispaniya parasha!
("Victory is ours – Spain is a toilet!" And not just any toilet - a parasha is a prison toilet, basically just a foul hole or bucket in the corner of the cell.)

Rossiya vperyod, Ispaniya sosyot!
("Go, Russia! Spain sucks!" I wonder if this is a calque from English?)

The dirtiest, which I couldn't help but giggle at, was simply a mass chant:
na khui! na khui! na khui!
It was started up whenever the Spanish team or coach was being shown. Khui (which sounds almost exactly like 'hooey') is the dirtiest of Russian dirty words, which is why it made me giggle. Literally it refers to a certain male reproductive organ, but, like English swear words, it can really mean any number of things. The above sentiment means something like "Go to hell!" or "F*** you!"

Anyway, I think I'm glad I went home at the half. Being stuck in the middle of a crowd of disappointed/angry drunk Russian guys at one in the morning wouldn't have been my idea of fun.


Anonymous said...

One of my other favorite blogs (this one is mostly a legal blog) also recently had a post on the very same issue of nationalism and soccer you wrote about. In case you're curious: http://www.volokh.com/posts/1213851340.shtml

-Dan K

Mike said...