Blether: Football, not Esperanto, is the real universal means of communication

Rob Boag with his birthday gift.

Regular contributor Rob Boag turned 80 last October — and he looks very good for it.

However, in Canada, where the one-time Lochee-ite now resides, reaching three score and twenty comes with a price.

Octogenarian Rob explains: “At 80 years of age and every two years after, in Ontario, where I live, it is mandatory to sit a driver’s test.

“It’s a visual and written exam completed in a classroom.

“I arrived early to the class, and there were 15 elderly folks already seated.

“A quick scan and I figured that I was the youngest person in attendance.

“I sat and introduced myself to the gentlemen next to me. He introduced himself, his name was Aldo and he was 90 years of age.”

Picking up an Italian accent from Aldo, Rob continued: “My question to him was: ‘What team do you support?’

“Aldo’s eyes lit up, and he proudly proclaimed ‘Juventus’.

“Aldo arrived in Canada from Turin Italy in 1960 and, as it turned out, is an encyclopedia on European football.

“In the 20 minutes or so before the instructor arrived, Aldo and I excavated European games and European teams from the 1950s and 60s.

“Aldo asked if I remembered ‘Il Buon Gigante’.

“I must have looked puzzled, as in English he then said: ‘The Gentle Giant’.

“John Charles I blurted out, and Aldo looked pleased that I remembered the great Welsh player who was transferred to Juventus in the 1950s.

“Aldo told me even though Charles passed away in 2004, he is still revered in Turin and Italy as a great player and as a majestic centre-forward.”

It’s August 6, 1958, and Welsh footballer John Charles is held aloft by supporters after he led his team Juventus
to victory in the Italian Cup at Turin.

Rob went on: “It’s a good feeling when meeting someone for the first time to discover you have something in common — and this common denominator was football.

“It’s said that the language of Esperanto is the universal means of communication.

“Not true — it’s fitba, football, soccer.

“Over the decades in Canada, I have met immigrants from Botswana to Beijing who could barely speak a word of English.

“Yet, mention a football club such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid, &c, and you establish instant communication.

“Names like Ferguson, Messi, Ronaldo, Silva and Neymar trip off their tongues with amazing fluency.

“It is sport, it is football that is today’s international language — and what a great way to have a global blether.”

To conclude, Rob issued a plea for a former BwB story to be resurrected.

“One of the gifts I received for my birthday was a painting by Scottish artist Francis Boag — River Tay from Balmerino.

“Francis’ dad and my dad were cousins.

“A few years ago, I recall an article in BwB.

“It was an entertaining story about a football team where the writer played alongside Francis Boag.

“I wonder if that reader still follows BwB, and could he refresh the story and send it in for consideration to BwB?”

I met John Charles a few times.

He used to come up to Dundee every now and then with his great friend Peter Lorimer and would appear at local presentations and functions.