Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Tony Deyal | National pride and prejudice

Published:Saturday | September 22, 2018 | 12:50 PMTony Deyal

The guntalk, boasting, jibes, name-calling, praying for DJ Bravo not to bowl and then the elation when his team won, the highs, lows, and mediocrity made me think of the dumbest wars that were ever fought, threatened or contemplated.

For example, a town called Huescar in Spain declared war on Denmark in 1809 and forgot about it. For 172 years, no shots were fired, and no one was killed. A historian randomly came across the declaration one day, and both countries signed a peace treaty. In 1864, Spain and Peru went to war over some bird poop or guano in the Chincha Islands.

Later, in 1932, the Australian military went to war against the flightless bird called the emu and killed a lot of the birds. A real war involving real people was the War of Jenkin's Ear, which was declared in 1739 over an incident that took place in 1731 when a ship piloted by Englishman Robert Jenkins was boarded by a bunch of Spanish sailors who thought that Jenkins was a smuggler.

The Spanish commander cut off the man's ear and handed it to him. Jenkins appeared before the British Parliament with his severed ear, and the British used it as reason enough to go to war with Spain for the next nine years.

 

War

 

Many years earlier, in 1325, two Italian cities, Bologna and Modena, went to war over a stolen bucket. If you think that story is the real 'phoney baloney', try this one.

A woman from the warlike tribe of Bakr named Al-Basous went to visit her niece, Jalila bint Murrah, and nephew, Jassas. Jalila was married to Kulayb, the leader of Taghleb tribe who was known to be extremely protective of his property. He saw a strange camel on his land and shot it with an arrow. The camel belonged to Al-Basous. She complained to her nephew Jassas, who then killed Taghleb, his brother in-law. This triggered a war between the two tribes that lasted 40 years.

In late 1969, three World Cup qualifying matches caused tensions that resulted in a declaration of war. El Salvador dissolved diplomatic ties with its neighbour Honduras and invaded a couple of weeks later. The war lasted four days, hence the nickname 'The Hundred Hours War', and a ceasefire was negotiated without anyone really achieving anything. This might have been the origin of the term 'political football'. In 1838, the British went to war with China because the Chinese refused to buy British opium or exchange it for their silk.

Drugs and ears are not the only things the British have fought wars over. They fought the Americans over a pig. In 1859, San Juan Island, which lies between Washington State and Vancouver Island, was coveted by both the British and the Americans. An American farmer on the island got really angry when a pig belonging to his neighbour, an Irishman, ate his potatoes. He shot the pig and haggled over payment for it. When they could not reach an agreement, the British governor of Vancouver Island called in Rear Admiral Robert L. Baynes, demanding a full-scale military offensive. Baynes refused. The incident ended without another shot being fired and led to the very important question, "If nobody dies, is it still a war?"

I ask that question in the context of what seemed to be a serious international and internecine Caribbean issue between Trinidad and Tobago (Trinbago) and Guyana during the Caribbean Premier League (CPL). It was first presented as the desecration of the Trinbago flag by an unknown Guyanese woman, aided and abetted by her fellow nationals, at the end of a match in which the Trinbago team (the Knight Riders) was beaten badly - mauled, in fact - by the Guyana Amazons.

 

Language, Food, Culture

 

Then it became much more serious and exploded into the realms of language, food and cricket. The Amazons franchise is owned by a Guyanese, Bobby Ramroop. Its captain at the start of the season was from Pakistan. When he left, he was replaced by a Trinbagonian and, subsequently, when the team was doing badly, an Australian. The Amazons squad also included a Pakistani bowler from Pakistan, another from South Africa, a New Zealander, and even two Jamaicans. The Trinbago team is owned by an Indian movie star named Khan. Its top performers were a Pakistan-born bowler from the United States, another from Australia, and a batsman from New Zealand. Also included were a Pakistani from Canada, a South African, an Australian, a Jamaican, a Barbadian, and a Guyanese.

The franchise for the cricket is owned by an Irish company and was sold to them by the West Indies Cricket Board, before it became Cricket West Indies, for $50 million dollars for fifty years. The other major T20 franchises in the world are owned by the national cricket boards of the countries that host and hold them. A million dollars in profits from T20 tournaments is chump change for them.

What makes fighting over ears, buckets, camels, pigs, dope and even emus seem almost noble in comparison is the fact that several Trinbagonians saw the country that won (and not the team) as settling an important score, not a cricket score, but more a structural sore point that somehow makes one country superior to the other. In fact, when Trinbago won the match, several people posted that the Trinbago victory had determined that the proper term for a mixture (in alphabetical order to avoid further hostilities) of chicken and curry was 'curry chicken' and not, as the Guyanese call it, 'chicken curry.'

- Tony Deyal was last seen asking, if next year's final is between the Tridents and the Knight Riders, would the fight be about which is more correct, 'flying fish' or 'fish flying'?