Writing on his website, Ben Arfa has talked at length about his life in England and discusses red meat, pubs, St.James’ Park, autograph hunters, timing of meals and the press!
It is great to see a player coming through the tough times and then feeling able to express himself both on and off the pitch, a marked contrast to the at times lonely figure we saw making fleeting appearances earlier this season.
The world is quite literally his oyster…in the colours of Newcastle United! (Once more we are yet again indebted to ‘Pierre’ for the translation services)
I Feel Good In Angleterre
The first time I arrived in Newcastle in northern England, I thought, “Me, the Mediterranean, I could never adjust to a city as grey and cold.” Then when I started to live here, I realised that the most important was not necessarily based on first impression. Eighteen months on, this country and this city, I’m starting to really be a fan!
For those who find it difficult to locate on the map, Newcastle is the second city (after Sunderland), in the north of England, located 1 hour from the Scottish border. Moreover if there is a match not to miss in the season, the derby “St.James’ Park” against the “Black Cats” (nickname of the team Sunderland). The city is very student orientated, with a very busy shopping centre and also full of cultural centres (including the magnificent “Theatre Royal”) and lots of places to party. Here, if you do not like the atmosphere of the pubs, you might as well leave the town! The city must have at least five hundred of them. The English pub, there is no real equivalent in France, you stay there for hours, drinking, eating, chatting, playing games and reliving the matches again …
On the culinary side, me who is a lover of good red meat, I am still struggling to find my feet. The English are very fond of chicken they eat it with in every possible sauce, be it (ketchup, curry …). Meals are eaten much earlier tha in France (they eat between 18:00 – 19:00) and lunch is just something very basic.
What I realised in discussions, it is the absence of taboo subjects. For example, you do not shock anyone by talking openly about money or health. Another point, the person you are speaking with is listening to you unlike in France. However, to be well understood and to really understand it is best to learn English because few people here make the effort to learn a foreign language.
In the street, when people seek an autograph or a picture, it’s always with extreme politeness and friendliness. Even if you don’t always do it, they accept it with dignity and move on with an apology. On the whole you are forgiven everything as long as “you do the job” on the pitch.
Here, the press is everywhere; there must be ten times as many newspapers and magazines than in France. The English buy them by the kilo and you can also read them for free in any pub. The hate of the players is to be found mentioned in the tabloids, with their limited methods. Your career may suffer suddenly and your image destroyed.
In the club, the relationship with the manager is closer and more transparent than in France. It’s very cool yet very professional. Your manager naturally is owed respect and no one would go against his authority. In this “club culture” any disobedience or misbehaviour will be fined!