Well, the World Cup inches over the goal line, but as we don’t have a fourth official or video then it’s not the end at all. All the fun teams have been knocked out so we come down to the business end (literally) of the tournament and I have to ask myself: has this been a vintage World Cup? I think, on reflection, that it hasn’t. There have been no really dramatic games, no genuine footballing star has emerged (as they usually do) and there has been a total absence of quality, crazy barnets.
Ever since the demise of Gullit and Valderrama we had to rely on our Becks to sculpt his bonce into something newsworthy…but alas he is now a show pony for the F.A. and needs to keep his tattoos covered and his barnet bland. Rooney is – obviously – related to the royal family and started loosing his hair at 13; so he’s not eligible. Gerrard’s hair grows on his forehead, so that’s quite interesting in a wolf-boy, circus side-show kind of way. The only guy who made any effort at all was Bacary Sagna – let’s face it; if you had a name like that you’d do something, wouldn’t you? – who has dyed the ends of his dreds white. But…he plays for France and was overshadowed by the French team as a whole. Shame.
So, I have been trying to think what has made this World Cup memorable over previous ones and what this one will be remembered for:
- Vuvuzelas There is someone in South Africa who is very, very rich because of these plastic horns. Every World Cup has some kind of thing – whether it be the Mexican Wave (Mexico ’86) or marching bands (Japan ’02). I’m sure they were complaining about rattles in the first World Cup. The reasons given are: that they effect the atmosphere; that you cannot hear the fans singing (the timeless: ‘come on Engerland’…the geographically challenged: ‘We’re on the road to Wemberley’…and that old time favourite: ‘who’s the wanker in the black.’). Also, that the players cannot speak to each other. That’s funny considering that the sole content of their conversations consist of: ‘have you seen the keys to my other Bentley?’ ‘Have you won the World Cup on the Xbox yet?’ and ‘£50 notes are better for wiping your arse with than £20 notes: they’re bigger.’ Anyhow, anything that drowns out the sound of that godawful WW2 England band can only be a good thing.
- The French It was handbags at dawn the second the French team arrived in South Africa, with rumours of dressing room bust ups, players sent home and a total lack of team spirit. They looked a miserable bunch and played like a pub side with no real shape or penetration. Their coach seemed to be – from an outsiders point of view – one croissant short of a petit dejeuner and was strangely reluctant to pick France’s top scorer (Henry) who at the very least would have provided a bit of guile. They apparently were sent home on Ryanair (or equivalent) and are currently in a holding pattern near Bratislava eating cheese and pickle sandwiches. They also had the worst kit of the tournament – who the hell designed it? Leo Sayer?
- Jabulani This sounds like a free supplement of the magazine Nuts. However it is actually the name of the official match ball made by Adidas. As usual the managers and the players have had a good old blubb about how it’s too light (diddums!), too unpredictable in the air (boo hoo!) and they can’t control it (have a ricecake!). It is beyond me why they have to keep redesigning the bloody ball at all (though I’ll hazard a guess: money) but when it comes down to it: it’s round, it’s filled with air, kick it, get over it. Plus, this is what they’re paid to do all day and everyone has the same disadvantage. Honestly, they’re like a bunch of toddlers these footballers…
- Technology The folks at FIFA must walk around Zurich in a dazed, confused state; slack jawed with amazement, spluttering: ‘motorised hackney carriages! Phones without wires! Hand me my blunderbuster, we’ve been invaded by aliens from the future! Look, that ‘man’ is taking a photo with his phone without a wire! They’re witches! WITCHES!’ (I write this in jest, but I reckon this is pretty close to what they’re like at FIFA.) Every World Cup we have a discussion about whether we should have replays for a fourth official to scrutinise (for big things: like penalties, red cards and off the ball incidents) and a chip in the ball so that we know that there has been a goal scored or if it’s gone out for a throw in or a corner (how about a chip in the players? We could bring their IQs up to…35, 40 maybe.) FIFA get all victorian and say that it’ll break the flow of play (like 11 opposition players crowding around a referee for 10 minutes swearing doesn’t break the flow of play?) and it’s takes away authority from the referee. I think that the technology is there, it’s instant and it’s easy to implement and other sports use it (successfully). It’s a high stakes game and not using the available technology to outlaw cheating, violence and human error seems farcical.
- Cheating Luis Suarez, who plays for Uruguay, deliberately hand-balled in order to stop Ghana scoring. It wasn’t like he stopped an attacker getting the ball and potentially scoring…or touched it 30 yards out and altered the arc of the ball…no, it was going in and he batted it out like he was playing volley ball. Ghana had a certain goal and he prevented it. Ghana got a penalty and missed…the game went to penalties…Ghana lost (Ghana are, obviously, shit at penalties). Uruguay are now in the semi-final (tonight) but Suarez won’t be playing because he got a red card. To me, this doesn’t seem right. I don’t blame Suarez (he acted pretty instinctively), but there is too much room in the rules for an action like that to be punished with a penalty which is – at best – 50/50. This is where a fourth official would be useful because that should be given as a goal, in my opinion. Or, chop the hands off the perpetrator – harsh, I know, but it would act as a lesson and fast track the introduction of slip-on football boots.
- ITV’s Shit coverage Even with the chocolate teapot that is Alan Shearer, the BBC made ITV look like they cobbled together their coverage in the back of a long wheel-base transit, with a tenner and a Panini album for stats. Their pundits – to a man – are awful. Adrian Childs looks like he is regretting – to the very fibre of his being – departing the Beeb. Edgar Davids seems to get flustered with questions anything more complicated than colours or basic geometric shapes. Andy Townsend tactical assessment is always that the team has to ‘get in there’ and ‘battle for it!’ So, foul then, Andy? Francois Peenar! He’s a bloody rugby player! The ball is shaped differently you idiots! Commentating, they have Clive Tyldesley who will do anything (like he’s doing it for a bet or playing that game: six degrees of Kevin Bacon) to link back to his beloved, haloed, beautified Manchester United. They had one decent pundit, in my opinion: Robbie Earle. Then he only went and gave his hospitality tickets to a bunch of Dutch crumpet. Fool!
That’s all I can think of. Enjoy the game tonight! C’mon Holland!!!!