We’re on a trip down south to see Betty’s folks. She’s driving, I’m in the passenger seat and the boys have just woken up in the back.
“Tell us a story, Dad,” says Jaws.
“Yeah! A story! A story! ” Die Hard joins in.
“Go on,” says Betty, checking the rear view mirror. “We’ve still got an hour and a half until we reach Manchester.”
“Okay.” I sigh. “Okay.”
“Do you know the one about Skinny Malinky Long Legs”
“NO!” They all cry in their best pantomime voices.
“NO!” I reply in mock indignation. “Skinny Malinky Long Legs Big Banana Feet, went to the pictures but couldn`t find a seat, when the picture started Skinny Malinky farted, Skinny Malinky Long Legs Big Banana Feet.”
“NO!” Comes the call again, this time it’s mixed with a heavy dose of laughter.
“Well, let me tell you about Ol’ Skinny Malinky. He may have been the scourge of the film houses but Skinny, aka Ivo Viktor, was also a world class football goalkeeper. His massive feet and long legs meant he provided quite a physical presence between the sticks, but it wasn’t just Skinny’s pins and tootsies that aided him but his keen and cunning footballing mind. He was a goalkeeping genius and the envy of many a manager.
At an early age Skinny was spotted playing for his school team by a scout for Dukla Prague, his local team. He was signed on the spot. His national team debut was in 1966 against Brazil and although he participated in the 1970 FIFA World Cup, his most eliminating performance was to come six years later in the 1976 UEFA European Championship.
Czechoslovakia won. It was a marvellous team performance but Ivo Viktor played a huge part. The terrace hit that year was: ‘Skinny Malinky Long Legs Big Banana Feet, went to the pictures but couldn`t find a seat, when the picture started Skinny Malinky farted, Skinny Malinky Long Legs Big Banana Feet.’ It sounds incredible sung in the Czechoslovakian tongue, thousands of warriors, drunk on Pivo, belting it out. They still sing it today.
Not many people other than the Czechs know what I’m about to tell you. The reason why Skinny Malinky became a footballing hero was all down to his flatulence. It was the first time Skinny Malinky stopped pumping exclusively in the cinema and took his foul reek onto the pitch.
The European Championship took place between 16 and 20 June 1976.
Back then, there were only four countries in the final tournament so only semi-finals, final and third place matches took place. This was due to their only being four qualifying rounds with just the winners going to the actual tournament, which was held that year in the former Yugoslavia.
For the duration of competition the Czech squad chose to stay in a plush hotel right in the heart of the Plitvice Lakes in the Karst mountain range that borders Croatia and Bosnia. Truly one of the most beautiful places on the planet, Plitvice was the perfect spot for the team to relax and recuperate after winning its semi-final match against the Netherlands and before taking on the Germans in the final. The original plan had been to stay in Zagreb, a large city equipped with better training facilities and the location of the semi-final match. However, the coach, Vaclav Jazek, insisted upon the Plitvice Lakes. The old man had honeymooned there many years before and he felt sure the team would love it as much as he and his wife had.
For those who have never been, the Plitvice Lakes is a place of unparalleled beauty. It’s almost make-believe. Pools of cobalt blue water sit next to aqua-marine lagoons and these are off-set with lush green fauna and cascading waterfalls. It bathes the soul and soothes the psyche.
On the eve of the final, 19 June 1976, Skinny was be found swimming in a quiet lake with fellow teammate and gambling man, the enigmatic, Antonin Panenka. Three years later people would be banned from dipping in the lakes as Plitvice became a world heritage site and all aquatic activity was deemed destructive.
But as it was, Skinny’s big flipper feet propelled him through the water and he butterflied across the lake before doing a tumble turn and returning to the side where Antonin sat on a picnic rug drinking beer, eating a ham and mustard sandwich and occasionally checking his watch.
Skinny burst out the water. Antonin checked the time and groaned loudly. Skinny smiled. The midfielder had bet him that he couldn’t swim the length of the lake, one of the larger basins, in less than two minutes. Skinny smashed that time. What Antonin didn’t realise was that, Skinny, in his younger days, had been a champion swimmer. Skinny Malinky dried himself off, taking time to get between the toes of his big banana feet, took off his trunks, dried himself further, put on his team tracksuit and sat down next to his friend, who handed him a beer. Czech men love pivo. Who doesn’t?
‘All the games in this tournament have gone to extra-time,’ said Antonin.
‘Hmm, I know,’ replied Ivo.
‘I think tomorrow will be no exception and then I think it will go to penalties.’
‘Yes, you may be right.’
‘I used to practise penalties after training at Bohemians with Zdeněk Hruška. ’
‘Good strong keeper Hruška, I like.’
‘To make it interesting, we used to wager a beer or a bar of chocolate on each penalty. Unfortunately, because he was such a good keeper, I ended up losing money as he kept saving more shots than I could score. As a result I ended up lying awake at night thinking about how I could get the upper hand. I eventually realised that the goalkeeper always waits until just before the last moment to try and anticipate where the ball is going and dives just before it’s kicked so he can reach the shot in time.’
‘I have decided that it is probably easier to score by feinting to shoot and then just gently tapping the ball into the middle of the goal. In this way the keeper will always dive by the time the ball is kicked and he has no chance of recovering in time to save the shot. I tried it out on the training ground and it worked like a charm. The only problem being I started getting a lot fatter because I won back all those beers and chocolates.”
Both men laughed. Skinny Malinky farted and they laughed some more.
‘You really think you can beat Sepp Maier like that tomorrow? He is the best keeper in the world. What about the pressure?
‘Yes, I’m not worried about pressure.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘I’m very confident, I’ve been doing it for two years now and I’ve even done it a few times in the league.’
‘Yes I’ve heard about it and I think I saw you practising the kick in training with Herda.’
‘Yes. I am strong. It will work. I’m going to do it tomorrow, it will be penalties. I am sure of it. I have a fantastic trick up my sleeve, Ivo. What shall you bring to the table?’
Antonin’s tone was playful but the words hit Skinny hard and he sat stock still for a few seconds staring out at the lake.
That night he couldn’t sleep. Antonin Panenka was right, it would be penalties, but what would he bring to the table? The words rang in his ears for several hours.
‘What shall you bring to the table?’
‘What shall you bring to the table?
‘What shall you bring to the table?
He stared at the ceiling. He fluffed his pillow. He bit the knuckle on his right hand. He had nothing. Then it came. He remembered who he was. He was, Ivo ‘Skinny Malinky Long Legs’ Victor, the scourge of all Prague’s film houses.
But of course: farting!
He jumped out of bed and on a hotel notepad, with the matching pen, he wrote out a recipe. Then five minutes later he returned to bed, closed his eyes and fell into a deep, contented sleep.
The next morning he awoke early. The final wasn’t until 8pm but they had a lot of traveling to do before they arrived in Belgrade and Skinny had a lot of preparing to do. He went to the hotel kitchen and asked a tall chef, with thick black curly hair, to boil him a dozen eggs. He also asked the man to source him chicken, red cabbage, potato, two tins of baked beans, a Jerusalem artichoke, bran and a couple of leeks.
The three main things that cause people to parp are overeating, the body’s inability to break down protein quickly and eating foods which are high in polysaccharides. These include beans, lentils, dairy products, onions, garlic, scallions, leeks, radishes, sweet potatoes, cashews, Jerusalem artichokes, oats, wheat, yeast in breads and certain other vegetables. Cabbage, particularly red cabbage, as it belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family, will increase the reek of a rift – making it properly pungent.
The chef carried out the request with no fuss whatsoever and he pleased Ivo further when he told him he was welcome to use the kitchen facilities. Ivo set to work preparing his meal.
He chopped an onion, the cauliflower, peeled some spuds, chopped the leeks and the red cabbage and fried them with a few slices of diced, skinned chicken that he had rolled in breadcrumbs and bran. He cracked the eggs into a large mixing bowl and added salt and pepper. Then he whisked it up and grated the artichokes into the mix. He added the mix from the frying pan and again he whisked. Nearly there. He found a bigger pan hanging on the wall and put it on the hob. It was huge but then it had to be. He turned on the heat, added a few ounces of butter and waited until it turned to liquid. Then he added his fart inducing mixture and proceeded to make the biggest omelette he had ever seen. It was a wee bit of a struggle to flip it but having big goalkeeping hands helped. He served it with a huge portion of baked beans and washed it down with two large bottles Krusovice Dark from his own supply. It was a feat to complete the omelette but the beer slipped down a treat. What a breakfast. Boy was he full.
It was not easy pulling on his slacks, or putting on his white shirt and team blazer. Three hours later when the luxury silver coach set off; he was still feeling full. He didn’t feel ill though, just very bagged up. This was good. On the bus he played a marathon game of gin rummy, it was a long journey, with the number 9, Jaroslav Pollák, the captain Anton Ondruš and his pal Panenka. At one point Pollák said he was surprised the big man hadn’t farted yet, for usually the bus would be filled with a rank eggy smell, but Ivo just smiled and said: ‘All in good time, my friend, all in good time.’
When they arrived at the stadium and as they were coming off the bus, Panenka straightened his tie and winked at Ivo. Ivo smiled and nodded back at him slowly. They were going to win and both men knew it.
Before long they were sitting in the dressing room. The roar of the crowd made the hairs on Ivo’s neck stand on end. He loved it. He performed his ritual. He taped up his rings. He put his water, skip cap and spare gloves into his goal bag; in that order. He zipped and unzipped his bag three times. Footballers are superstitious but none more so than goalies.
The crowd roared again. The coach, Václav Ježek, gave a rousing call to arms. The men jumped up. They clapped and shouted. They left the dressing room, lined up next to their rivals and soon they were running onto the pitch.
Within eight minutes the Czechs were winning. West Germany fought back, wave after wave of attack. But, against the run of play, in the 25th minute Karol Dobiaš made it two. Go Karol! Dobiaš! Dobiaš! Dobiaš! The Bohemians were beating the mighty Hun and in the European Championship final no less. Ježek had put together quite a squad. Never to be underestimated though, West Germany pulled one back. They were the World Cup holders and current European champs. Half time whistle. Joy. Relief. Come on now!
Whilst sat in the dressing room, Ivo felt his stomach begin to churn. It was happening. Slowly but surely, something big was brewing in Skinny Malinky Long Legs’ belly. It was going to be smellier than the Prague premiere of Dirty Harry.
The 1976 European Championships was a thrilling contest. In the second half, Franz Beckenbauer, aka The Kaiser, did his long, trademark runs from deep within his own half, spurring the world champions on to overrun their opponents. They were held back only by the magnificence of Ivo Viktor – who was in the form of his life.
The 34-year-old pulled off save after save. He was incredible. He stopped a wonderful Heinz Flohe’s drive and a trademark Bonhof free-kick. However, the attacks were relentless and eventually with only two minutes to spare West Germany equalised.
To the fans – disaster. To the coach – oh no. To the rest of the squad – here we go. To Ivo and his pal, Panenka, this was how it was meant to be. For the first time ever Ivo smiled as he picked the ball out the back of his net. It was extra time but no goals would be scored. They weren’t. Sure enough, another first time ever, The European Championships would be decided by penalty kicks.
Ivo was ready. So was Marián Masný, a man Kevin Keegan described as one of the world’s most skillful wingers. The Slovakian netted first for Czechoslovakia. Borussia Mönchengladbach’s, Bohhof, scored Germany’s first. He was a clinical penalty taker. Zdeněk Nehoda, Czechoslovakia – goal. 2-1. Heinz Flohe, West Germany – goal. 2-2 Anton Ondruš. YASS Anton! 3-2. Ah, Germany equalise. Hans Bongartz. Three-a-piece. The tension was already tightrope taught but it grew and grew with every ticking second. Ladislav Jurkemik was up next. GOAL! JURKEMIK! JURKEMIK! JURKEMIK! 4-3.
Ivo was back between the sticks. He felt one brewing. Not just any old one; an anal hurricane. He stood on the line. He steadied his feet. He let out an almighty trump, a most gargantuan guff, his biggest ever and by far his smelliest. The omelette had done the trick. The noise of the stadium drowned out the raspberry sound but anyone within a 50 yard radius could smell it. One female fan behind the goal fainted. What a pong. Uli Hoeneß stepped up to take the next spot kick for West Germany but he could not concentrate. There was evil in the air. Something was wrong. He tried to focus on the job in hand, but the stink was too much for him – oh my word! The crowd behind the goal moaned and pulled faces, the pressmen quizzed the officials, everyone held their noses, but no-one knew where the niff came from. Everyone, that is, apart from Skinny Malinky Long Legs Big Banana Feet. He stood firm. The smell didn’t bother him. Well, your own ones never do, do they? Uli Hoeneß was suffocating but he had a job to do. MISS! Hoeneß. The one time Bayern Munich player ballooned it over the bar. He didn’t just sky it. He sent that ball into orbit. What a miss. His head fell, his shoulders sank.
Antonin Panenka was up next. History was about to be made. A long run up, a feigned kick, Sepp Maier dived to his left and Antonin Panenka, true to his word, casually chipped the ball straight into the middle of the net. GOAL! IT’S OVER! WIN!
The Czechs went wild. It was their first big tournament win. They had beat the World and former European Champions. The celebrations began. Pivo flowed from Bratislava to Prague. Amid the on-field celebrations Antonin and Ivo met and embraced.
‘You farted,’ said Panenka, smiling and holding his goalie by the shoulders.
‘Not me,’ denied Ivo Victor.
Both men laughed, Ivo farted and they laughed again.
While the whole world talked about Panenka’s cheeky penalty word spread, like a gaseous odor, about the famous parp.
Soon all of Czechoslovakia was singing: ‘Skinny Malinky Long Legs Big Banana Feet, went to the pictures but couldn`t find a seat, when the picture started Skinny Malinky farted, Skinny Malinky Long Legs Big Banana Feet.”
What football! What finals! What farting! What finishing!
“That was pish.”
Betty’s from Lancashire but she still says pish. It sounds weird with her accent but it is good, at least she speaka-da-lingo. I like. Not normal for her to say it front of the boys all same. She reads my mind.
“They fell back asleep.”
“Eh? How? What was wrong with that? I thought it was okay.”
“It’s why, not how.”
“No in Scotland we say how. Anyways, how?”
“I’m just not into football or farting.”
“Aye, well, sorry Sweetpea, it wasn’t really for you.”
Wee Betty Mcludgie, my fiercest critic.
I swivel round to face my target audience, but right enough, they are gone. Eyes shut, mouths agape. They look like they’ve been knocked out by heavy toxic gas…….