What has this to do with football? Anglo-Saxan Chronicle 5


As soon as we entered the pizza restaurant in ‘downtown’ Ceadir Lunga, Mr Merciu, the chairman of FC Saxan, pointed to a table in the corner. ‘That’s our table,’ he said.

I liked how he had his own table.

I liked too how, as soon as we were seated, the waiter brought a bottle of wine without being asked. A merlot from the nearby town of Comrat.

Moldova is a poor country – you can see that everywhere you go. But it is rich in vineyards and wine flows everywhere. Some of it very good.

‘So, I find we have three things in common,’ Merciu said. ‘We like good wine. We like football. And we have a common home in engineering.’

‘Common home’: I liked that.

Merciu had been trained in engineering, though these days he spent less time with a spanner in his hands and more time managing his agricultural machinery business.

If you ever find yourself in Moldova and in need of a combine harvester, I can give you his number.

Karen and I aren’t engineers, but we do run a consultancy for research engineers. We help them communicate. Giving a presentation on self-healing concrete? We’re the people you need. Writing a bid for a grant for developing foldable batteries? The same.

So, yes, we have a common home.

Er, just the capricioasa for me, thank you. And, at Merciu’s insistence, the okroshka soup, whatever that is. Thank you.

‘Now,’ he says, ‘last night you told me your definition of engineering. You told me, if I’m not mistaken that engineering equates to “materialising algorithms”.’

He wasn’t mistaken. That is indeed our working definition.

Engineers like to figure how to do something – build a dam or design a wing for an aircraft, say – and then formalise the sequence of operations required to make it happen in the most efficient way. That’s where the algorithms come in.

And then they perform those operations. They put their algorithms into practice.

‘Yes,’ Karen said. ‘The “materialising” part is a bit of a pun: we mean that engineers create algorithms for materialising a project and then they actually materialise them.’

Merciu gives a restrained nod that illustrates that this nicety is something that he understands but isn’t interested in. A nod that says, ‘Yes, but I’m a man of action, not a scholar.’

‘So what I’m wondering is,’ I say, as the okroshka arrives – I don’t think I’ve had radish in soup before – ‘how might this conception help with agricultural machinery services?’

‘Oh, I don’t think it does at all,’ replies Merciu. ‘No, no, no. It’s how it might apply to football that interests me…’