Wednesday, June 30, 2010
"You and I travel to the beat of a different drum..."
ENGLAND’S World Cup flops didn’t leave the World Cup entirely empty-handed – and that’s without counting the smokes and booze.
Ashley Cole and Jermain Defoe both have bulky new adornments for the mantelpiece, whether at Jermain’s dear old mum’s house or wherever Ashley lays his hat at nights these days.
In the face of non-existent competition, both players picked up official man of the match awards this summer – Cole against Algeria, Defoe versus Slovenia.
Not for prize sponsors Budweiser a same-old-same-old silver plate, trophy or figurine.
Instead, they are handing players a more distinctive keepsake, designed by a South African graduate and modelled on a traditional ‘djembe’ drum.
Jonathan Fundudis said he wanted his glass-and-wood sculpture to capture ‘the universal languages of rhythm and football in the form of an iconic African instrument’.
‘Drumming is an integral part of African life – it celebrates life and unity,’ he added.
‘The same can be said of this beautiful game of football – look at how the World Cup has unified our country.’
Ten players have received two of the trophies, including Keisuke Honda and Cristiano Ronaldo who both go home with three tucked under their arms.
But the drums now back on English soil might end up in a home no one could have expected – that is, poor hapless Emile Heskey’s.
As the England squad slunk off their plane at Heathrow on Tuesday morning, the misfiring striker’s young children could be seen playing with one of the prizes.
While, incidentally, grinning at the same time, but perhaps they at least can be let off for that.
WHAT with all their provocative cigar-smoking, lunch-guzzling, holiday-booking and – get this - smiling, England’s World Cup flops continue to leave a bad impression.
Yet they responded to earlier exits by enjoying a rather better impression.
It’s tricky to imagine Fabio Capello responding with calm if he caught a member of the England camp impersonating him behind his back.
Yes, even the rather desperate Capello of recent days, forcibly grinning Gordon Brown-style when joking about free beers or now pleading about how much he ‘likes’ his job.
Yet former FA insider Dan Freedman found himself confronted by Sven-Goran Eriksson in the hours after the 2002 quarter-final defeat to Brazil – and ordered to ‘do’ the Swede in front of the class, to help lighten the tension.
Freedman, now author of children’s football fiction including new book Man Of The Match, recalls: ‘He took it in good spirits, but I was absolutely full of nerves at the time.’
He now writes football novels for children about wonderkid winger Jamie Johnson, including new book Man Of The Match – promising a happier ending than England’s woeful World Cup.
‘I had to create Jamie Johnson because, at the moment, we simply don't have a player like him in reality,’ he added.
According to another incident Freedman remembers, Capello’s men might count themselves lucky only to be showered in abuse this time.
‘When we lost away in Croatia, some fans who were kept in the upper part of the ground after the game even urinated on the players as they made their way on to the team coach,’ he shuddered.
Perhaps the players’ displays this summer were their own way of doing it back.
LIONEL Messi is ‘The Spark’, Diego Forlan is ‘The Bomber’, David Villa is ‘The Blaze' and John Paintsil is ‘The Engine’.
No, it’s not the set-up for a new Fifa film franchise, a World Cup version of ‘The Fantastic Four’ – even if the basso profundo film-trailer voiceover man could really give some oomph to Bastian Schweinsteiger.
(‘The Illusionist, in case you were wondering – perhaps it was he who convinced Mauricio Espinosa the ball didn’t cross the line.)
Instead, these are just some of the try-hard titles given to a set of paintings on display in the swanky Johannesburg suburb of Sandton.
According to the exhibition’s major sportswear firm backers, Steve Gerrard is, apparently, ‘The Powerhouse’.
Alas, his portrait appears to have been based not on the kind of all-action display sadly missing this summer, but an old photo of Gerrard as a perky-faced schoolboy.
The kind of picture to make even the most rampant powerhouse wail: ‘Muuuuuum!’
Jozy Altidore, incidentally, is described as ‘The Trigger’, even if he played more like a carthorse last Saturday.
And here's Kaka, looking like his much-discussed fitness concerns aren't necessarily injury-related:
MISCHIEVOUS Diego Maradona keeps on happily lashing out at Press conferences that have had to become ticket-only.
Now Italian hardman Claudio Gentile has retaliated after being labelled ‘a killer’, by dismissing the Argentina coach as ‘a buffoon’.
The pair went toe to toe – or, rather, boot to shin – in a 1982 World Cup clash, after which the less-than-genteel Gentile reminded his indignant victim this wasn’t dancing-class.
Maradona could dish out a kicking himself, as shown by a red card that tournament and infamous streetfight-style footage from the 1984 Spanish Cup final.
Earlier this week, he condemned Ricardo La Volpe as ‘a traitor’ after the former Argentina goalkeeper and ex-Mexico coach said he would cheer on the Mexicans last Sunday.
Twenty years ago, Maradona was provocatively urging the locals to snub their own homeland and support Argentina in their Naples semi-final at Italia 90.
Consistency has never really been part of Maradona’s make-up – and perhaps that’s all just part of the fun.
AFTER all the doomy, gloomy fears and warnings yesterday finally brought the nightmare everyone knew must come but no one wanted to imagine.
For the first time in 20 days, there was not a single minute of live football.
And what’s more, there’s another 24 hours without it today.
Stay strong. Together we can get through this. See you on the other side.