Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Someone knocking at the door, somebody ringing a bell..."

QUESTIONS are rightly being asked about how an intruder managed to get into England’s dressing room.
Barely articulate, needlessly distracting, and really just a fan who should have felt lucky to be there, David Beckham nevertheless insists he’ll attend again on Wednesday.
As for Pavlos Joseph’s unwanted appearance, perhaps the biggest surprise isn’t that he evaded security – but didn’t do more angry damage when he did.
Or else, that he wasn’t bundled down en route by clod-hopping Jamie Carragher.
In a first World Cup week dominated by sturdy rearguard actions on the field, off it security teams seem to have taken their cue from the South African defence and not, say, the Swiss.
Little wonder, maybe, that it’s the Zurich-based Fifa – and its compatriot president Sepp Blatter – putting the verrou, or Swiss bolt, on those ‘ambush marketing’ Dutch.
Elsewhere in and around the stadia, the local approach – whether by underpaid and undermotivated stewards or even police stand-ins – has been, if not exactly lax, then rather relaxed.
Even in the last days leading up to the big kick-off, visitors could wander into the main Soccer City complex in Johannesburg without even having to flash a stadium pass.
Entry checks for matches since then have been cheery, yet cursory – with only random confiscations here and there, more often a sandwich or drink that might offend official sponsors.
Fans of Nigeria’s so-called ‘Super Eagles’ were disappointed to be blocked from bringing their own birds in – but a French fan did smuggle his rooster into the Polokwane stands.
(Please, no crude jokes about 11 more something-or-others on the pitch.)
The largely-chilled vibe seems worth celebrating, especially with alarmist forecasts of al-Qaeda attacks proving (fingers crossed) as accurate as those about squad-eating snakes.
The atmosphere coming out of the Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, above all, has crackled excitingly with brisk midwinter mingling and anything-goes relish - with a few wafts of suspiciously-illicit smoke too.
The slightly ramshackle air and organisation can both charm and annoy, as all those left stranded by disrupted or disjointed public services might agree.
But perhaps we should be grateful security officials are being a bit tentative about demanding credentials – lest England be locked out before being knocked out.

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