Everything you need to know about the shebang in South Africa
Some World Cup observations...
1. Barcelona’s a great place to watch the World Cup. There are people from all around the world – especially the leading football nations like Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, England, Italy, Holland, Germany France and obviously Spain.
Add to that mix substantial expat communities from West Africa, Algeria, Chile, and it becomes a kaleidoscope of fans. And because the city centre is smaller than Paris, London or Sao Paulo, you get to see most of them. Bars all over town and on the beach are full of all nationalities and the atmosphere is brilliant. Fireworks light the night sky when any team wins.
Compared to England and the rash of George Crosses, there’s hardly any Spanish flags on show. That’s part because many locals put Catalonia before Spain, but I’ve yet to meet a Catalan who doesn’t want Spain to do well.
2. Emmanuel Adebayor brought a smile or two. It amused to hear the City striker describing Wayne Rooney’s team as "Manchester". As did hearing his mobile phone going off live on air. He didn’t answer it – but it was actually his wife ringing to say that she’d given birth to his daughter.
3. I love the national anthems. Always have done. It’s easy to be cynical about what you might see at sickly and forced patriotism, but the highlight for many footballers is representing their country at the World Cup. There’s some proper tunes too – Italy, France, England and Brazil stand out. Argentina’s wordless anthem seems to inspire their players like no other.
It’s great when the players sing and it was superb to see the Mexicans with their arms proudly across their chest. Patrice Evra even cried – though that was probably at the state of the team he was leading.
4. Andrew Cole's bigger than Socrates. I do a column with Andrew every week and he’s been out in South Africa. He bumped into Socrates as they were both working for the same charity. Cole completely buzzed off meeting the Brazilian legend – yet more people recognised Coley because he played for Manchester United until relatively recently and the Premiership is so big in South Africa.
5. Enough with the township clichés. I suspect that there are plenty of kids in South African townships who are bored with patronising visits from people they’ve never heard of. Good games of football are being spoiled for the sake of clichéd television which we’ve seen a millions times. It would be more interesting if the forgotten stories were unearthed – like South Africa’s little-known white underclass, the Zimbabwean refugees who are pushed to the fringes of Soweto.
6. England can't win the World Cup. I’m baffled by people thinking that they can. England have been ranked an average of eighth on the planet over the past two years because seven other national teams have consistently performed better. England won one World Cup 44 years ago on home territory. Since then, the English have failed to qualify three times and played in seven tournaments. Italia ’90 was their best showing – a semi final appearance.
England are the Aston Villa of world football – decent with talented players but with nowhere enough quality to compete with the best consistently. Brazil are struggling to fit Daniel Alves, the world’s best right back, in their team. Spain can’t find space for Cesc Fabregas, while Argentina can call on Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi, Diego Milito and Gonzalo Higuain up front.
Nobody expects Villa to win the Premiership, so why do some expect England to triumph in South Africa? Hope triumphs over reason and when England fail to deliver the pendulum swings too far the other way and players are slaughtered.
7. Celebrities aren't proper supporters. I’ve not watched any of that James Corden programme. Celebrity and football mix like the chairman of BP and a Louisiana shrimper. I’ve interviewed many celebrities about their footballing affinities and can count on one hand the number of genuine football fans – the type who’ve stood on an away end. Paul Heaton and Chris Ecclestone are two who spring to mind.
INTERVIEWS Judge for yourself: Heaton & the other celebrities
8. Mick McCarthy has become an unlikely star. He’s so no-nonsense and old fashioned-that he appears appalled the pitches aren’t caked in mud and that the teams wear coloured kits. I reckon he only went to Wolves because they were good in the 50s, a decade that serves as the reference point for his life despite him only living in it for 10 months.
He was born frustrated. When his local Barnsley paper celebrated the opening of the nearby M1, eight-year-old Mick would have been disappointed that things were changing too fast in the world and remarked trenchantly, "There’s nowt wrong with A-roads."
I remember him playing for Manchester City. Bet he wasn’t happy living in Manchester, a city with more than one rail station, clubs with foreign-sounding names like the Haçienda and cafes which had tables outside where people drank coffee. In the street.
I bet he settles any disputes off-air with a solid Yorkshire fist-fight on the condition that the loser must not go to hospital but sink nine pints. He obviously can’t wait to get home and to have a week in Filey.
More World Cup stuff: Features
* Lists * Interviews
re: no 6
...because in an international tournament you only need to win a handful of games.
greece and denmark both won the european championships - denmark hadnt even qualified for it when they won it. no-one thinks villa can win the league but last season proved that they COULD win a cup. when international teams start playing 40 match tournaments then maybe we will throw the towel in but if a team like the usa could get to the semi finals having only beaten algeria, ghana and uruguay then there is still hope for even worse sides than england.
look how well italy and france performed this year - and they were the two finalists last time round so that kind of blows the consistency argument out of the water doesnt it? (dont forget france won it in 1998, then made the worst defence of a world cup ever in 2002, being eliminated without scoring a goal only to end up as finalists again in 2006.)
so what if spain cant find room for fabregas? england cant easily find room for both gerard (a man who has captained a european cup winning team) and lampard (a player who always scores 20+ goals a season in the prem from midfield and won the league AGAIN this season). so argentina have lots of great strikers - cant find a decent centre half though can they? brazil cant get the best right back into their side? what the f*** is the manager doing picking someone else?
its perhaps only a light hearted blog but its garbage. whoever wrote it is comparing two totally different things and once again proves that anything that is written by anyone who falls loosely under the job description of "journalist" in the uk can never write anything about the england team unless it is ludicrously over hyping them or writing them off as inferior to just about every other team in the world.
I think that comparing the World cup to the premiership is a little misleading as it is obviously a cup competition. Therefore it is more relevent if it was compared to the FA cup - some of the '2nd tier' big teams do have a chance of winning it but it is more likely a big team that'd win it ie the list of previous winners (barring pompey of course)
Andy-mmm now where i have read the " England are like Aston Villa" line before? Let me see- well infact in various blogs and magazines before every world cup since 1990. How about blogging some of your own work in the future?!
Mick McCarthy bit was priceless. He's a man who loves the irish countryside...where one can buy rashers in a post office.
Great work as usual.
LATEST FOOTBALL NEWS
Heynckes hints at Lewandowski transfer
Robben and Bayern exorcise demons
Aguero extends Man City contract until 2017
Santos decide to let Neymar leave
Inter sack Stramaccioni and appoint Mazzarri
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010