If, as some critics noted of the World Cup Final, that it is the best that the world’s two best teams can produce, then we’d be better off playing buzkashi or Kinect Dance-off. The interminable drone of a match briefly came to light after 65 minutes when Argentina’s lumbering defender Pedro Monzon approached German striker Jürgen Klinsmann, who reacted as though he were a breakdancer being repeatedly tasered by a SWAT team. Millions of viewers were on the edge of their seats praying that the match wouldn’t go to extra time, and their entreaties were answered when the referee, on a whim, decided to award Germany a penalty in the last 10 minutes.
The scene was set early when Diego Maradona scored a goal and then celebrated in such a hyperactively oafish manner that a urine test was hardly needed to confirm the presence in his compacted frame of a cocktail of interesting stimulants. The drug theme continued, with members of the Colombian entourage receiving death threats over team selection — the captain was shot dead back in Colombia, 11 days after scoring an own goal against the USA. Amazingly, the final produced even less goals than the one before, only to be decided when Roberto Baggio, aka the Divine Ponytail, summoned up all his inner composure and ballooned the vital penalty into the stands.
Cardiac problems, poisoning, epileptic fits, upset stomachs, bad ankles and panic attacks. Any or all of these could have been the cause of the distress of Brazilian superstar Ronaldo on the morning of the final. After initially being left out of the team, he eventually played, though apparently so zonked he couldn’t remember whether he was supposed to be marking Zinedine Zidane or his own shadow. The Brazilians sank to an ignominious defeat, handing victory to the French, wildly celebrated by their mascot Jules, which resembled Donald Duck in a beret. On the bright side, the Golden Boot was won for the first time by a one-legged player, Croatia’s Davor Sukur.
2002: South Korea & Japan
Apart from leaving the grass on the pitches long enough to satisfy fussy herbivores, and allowing the tournament mascots to be chosen by diners at McDonald’s outlets, most people applauded the Asian nations’ organisational efforts. The players, however, proved not to be in full control of their anatomies, with Rivaldo clutching his face in agony after being struck on the knee, and his teammate Ronaldo sporting a patch of hair on his forehead which would have looked more appropriate inside his shorts.
Concerned that the football was not proving entertaining enough, the referees decided to stage their own long-running comedy routine, rewarding divers with penalties instead of red cards, booking players three times in the same match before sending them off and being lenient on general thuggery to the point where criticisms began to be voiced. Russian referee Valentin Ivanov promptly decided to restore the average in the next match by sending off four players and issuing a total of 16 yellow cards, though inexplicably failing to give himself one.
2010: South Africa
Opinions are divided as to whether the vote should go to the Jabulani or the Vuvuzela. The choice depends on whether you are a visual or aural aesthete — whether the sight of yet another free-kick sailing into Row Z hurts more than the sound of a billion sheep being clumsily sheared on a nightly basis.
Among all the potential pitfalls, such as stadiums falling on the punters’ heads, a tacky opening ceremony or the Pope turning up in an Argentina shirt, our vote goes to goal-line technology being used for the first time. Calling technology ‘infallible’ is the surest possible prelude to disaster, and who’s to say some 11-year-old Bulgarian geek won’t hack into the ball and start awarding goals at random?
Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, FIFA’s answer to Cheech & Chong, have hatched plans to expand the finals competition to a wearying 40 teams, which means that the whole thing will take longer than Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. The rationale, if such it could be called, is to allow in more teams from the developing (i.e. non-European) countries, who will show their gratitude by, er, voting for ’Blattini’ to stay in the job.
FIFA’s got itself into a jam here, caused by its instinctive habit of pandering to the extremely rich, as long as they know nothing about football. It turns out the Qataris are not as rich as FIFA thought, and will not be air-conditioning the entire country, meaning that players will have to endure game-time temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius or play at the dead of night. If not, Qatar will have to build underground stadiums.
AC Milan and Juventus Fan
“Germany might win because they have experience and young power!”
“Brazil can win but in football, there are sometimes big surprises.”