England might be the land of stiff upper lip but when the alcohol seeps in the lip cuts wide open and much mayhem can ensue. Especially in the fan clubs who follow their favourite teams all around the world. Barmy Army is a famous name, but there is another — Addis Army — that is associated with English cricket and is currently at Rajkot.
Formed 11 years ago in inebriating circumstances, this group too follows the cricket team as much as possible. Three of them have arrived at Rajkot, with a lot more to join them in the second Test at coastal town of Vizag. It’s an understandable move as Rajkot is a dry, alcohol-free city, where Indians from other parts of the country, and foreign nationals can buy some liquor on a alcohol-permit. But it’s limited quantity.
These three men have to sustain themselves on 28 cans of beer for a week. “Usually, lasts couple of sessions,” laughs Michael Gegg, who proceeds to talk about the hilarious origins of the club.
It all started in Ethiopia, in Addis (of Addis Ababa), and hence the name. A group of strangers found themselves on a cheap Ethiopian flight that had a stopover in Addis. After raiding the in-flight booze stock, and sort of getting to know each other then, they found themselves around a swimming pool that night in a hotel at Addis.
“We started talking, and you know how it leads from one thing to another. We discovered a shared passion for the sport and travel, and decided we should start traveling with the team whenever we can.”
All fan clubs need songs; else where is the fun? And certain events around the pool got them a song immediately. Apparently, one of the motley crowd took a fancy to a woman named Selena near the pool. Everyone else knew that she was a sex worker but our man didn’t believe it till very late. The man was christened SP (Selena Pimp) and song too wrote itself.
It was set to the tune of ‘Yellow Submarine’ and the lyrics go something like this. Herbie sings it out at the second-floor balcony at the Rajkot stadium.
In the town of Ababa, lived the lovely Selena,
When I asked her what she did,
She said, “I’ll woo you. For a forty quid”,
We’ve all been to Addis Ababa,
Addis Ababa Addis Ababa.
The fans in Rajkot sitting next to AA army would also get to hear another song, in the tune of an English TV show called Chigley from the 1960’s.
Time flies by when Iam the driver of a train,
Watching the England win away again,
Under bridges over bridges to our destination,
Puffing through the countryside there’s so
much to be seen.
The group’s first tour was to South Africa in 2004-2005, and has grown in number. They publish a fanzine magazine, they have a weekly newsletter, blogs from the members and also do interviews of cricketers. It’s an optimistic group. They have booked their flight to Vizag on the 14th, in the assumption that the Test would last the full five days. However many days the Test lasts, and even though they are just three men, cries of Selena would be heard loud and clear.
Meanwhile, the more famous Barmy Army too are in town of Rajkot. A twitter pic was up on November 6 from Adelaide, with more beer in the picture than people. All that is set to change in this city of course.
Not that the stringent rules can dampen this lot. The next post, a day later, had this: ‘Letter of residence (tick), Liquor Permit (tick), minibar fridge full of beer (tick)’.
Much like Addis Army, Barmy Army supporters too are going to roll in more numbers from the second Test at Vizag. Already, the forum at Barmy Army website is buzzing with details about pubs in beaches in Vizag. Some intrepid travellers, though, would be in Rajkot for the first Test.
It’s not all fun and drunks, though. A post in the Barmy Army forum has also started discussing the game and England’s chances. Modestly titled, ‘Are we going to get stuffed?’ the thread has this tidbit. “A lot could depend on the toss. India have won the toss in their last 8 home test matches, we desperately need that to change to have more of a chance. We have played Ashwin quite well in the past, although he has clearly improved since we last toured 4 years ago.”
For their part, Addis Army not only optimistic but also resourceful. Arrangements are being made, Gegg assures us, to get more than those 28 cans of beer. Wonder how the real Selena, of Addis, feels about her name being sung out by drunken Englishmen in the faraway land of India.