Wednesday, June 25

Photos of uncertain importance. Part 22. Gazza’s kebab

It’s football time again – the European championships – which means that ITV and the BBC choose a piece of classical music to accompanying the title sequence. This noble tradition (probably) dates back to the World Cup, Italy 1990

and it’s hard to imagine how Nessum Dorma could be bettered in this respect – it seems possible that Puccini had the 1990 World Cup in Italy in mind when he wrote the tune. There have been flirtations with New Order and the like, but since Pav sang, it’s been mainly classical…

The footage that’s inextricable linked to the event from the England point of view is of a tearful Paul Gascoigne, aka Gazza, one of the most naturally talented, but troubled, footballers that England has ever produced. (I don’t think I’ve ever read a piece about Amy Winehouse that managed to avoid using the word “troubled” – the subs must be tearing their hair out, maybe it’s time to invent another word…)

Fast forward eight years, and England boss Glenn Hoddle is pondering his selection for the France 1998 World Cup. Gazza is not fully fit and has earned a reputation for leading an unhealthy lifestyle. Meanwhile Hoddle is making some very non-committal remarks regarding the player. It’s worth bearing in mind that Martin Amis (the novelist, not the photographer) has suggested that all England managers go mad in the end, and there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of evidence to disprove that theory. Although Hoddle may have had a natural head start in the fruitcake stakes.

Just a few days before the squad is due to meet up, Gazza goes for a night out with his friends, DJs Danny Baker and Chris Evans, both known to enjoy a few drinks. The evening ends in the usual culinary conclusion – a visit to the kebab shop.


Student James Eisen spotted them and quickly aimed his camera: 'Gazza had a bag of chips and another bag. I asked Chris if I could take his picture and he nodded. I asked Gazza and he sort of mumbled so I took the shot. One of Gazza's mates grabbed the camera and it went flying. It ended up under a car but I was able to retrieve it.

The picture of Gazza looking slightly shell-shocked and adrift with kebab in Soho made the front page. I have a very clear memory of seeing the picture. Although the party protested that Gazza was in bed by midnight, and Evans even claimed that the chicken kebab, being low in fat, was the natural food of athletes, it didn’t look good. The kebab – the ultimate symbol of end of night revelry and general pissed-up-ness.

I wonder what happened to James Eisen? A quick Google reveals a mention that a James Eisen has quite recently worked for the News of the World newspaper. It’s hard to know exactly what effect that one photograph had on Hoddle, but it’s fair to say it didn’t help Gascoigne’s case.

Gascoigne never made the World Cup squad, and never played for England again.

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