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There is a saying in the UK… Maybe in other places too, I am not too sure, but the saying goes ‘rugby is a thugs game played by gentlemen, and football is a gentlemens game played by thugs.’ I have never understood that saying to be anything other than something a rugby player made up because he was too fat and useless to play football… Probably the same guy who sat on the football inadvertently inventing the egg shaped rugby ball.
The truth is that football will always be the bigger sport, and while it is filled to the brim with over payed, under-performing nancy boys like Christiano Ronaldo, you can genuinely call some footballers geniuses (Diego Maradona, Paul Gascoigne, David Rossi to name a few) whereas in rugby the highest compliment you can bestow upon a player is ‘he’s quite good’. It is not simply a bigger sport than rugby, it is the most popular sport on the planet… Despite the American trick of calling their sports ‘World Series’… No one out with the states really pays attention, although in saying that I love the Super Bowl.
The FIFA World Cup begins this week, and so does my attempt to cover it best I can… If this means I have to stay up all day and all night watching every game I possibly can, then so be it… I’m a professional gosh darnit. My appetite for live football was well and truly whetted last night when I watched Soccer Aid, a one off cup final conceived by one Robbie Williams, once referred to as ‘the fat dancer from Take That’ by one of the brothers from Oasis. Quite obviously, the point of the game is to raise money for the charity UNICEF, a global children’s charity, but there was certainly some school boy dreams being fulfilled by most of the non professionals on show… Where better to realise that dream than at the self proclaimed ‘Theatre of Dreams’, Old Trafford, home of Manchester United FC.
The teams are made up of some veteran professionals and celebrities, and they represent England V the Rest of the World. There were some surprise names appearing on both sides, from both the world of football and the world of celebrity. Zinedene Zidane, Luis Figo, Henrik Larsson,Ryan Giggs, Alan Shearer and others were there to represent the old pros, and celebrity names such as organiser Robbie Williams, Mike Myers and Woody Harrelson… Who admitted to having only taken the sport up 8 years ago… Usually he spends his time smoking weed, kite surfing and playing ultimate frisbee.
The first half was a fairly boring affair, although Captain Winters from 101st Easy Company… Or actor Damien Lewis as he is usually known, struck the bar in the first few minutes with an audacious attempt at lobbing Jens Lehman, the former German goalkeeper. The real action was saved for the second half when the pro goalies were substituted for celebrities. Although I think, it only fair that I mention that Mike Myers showed an incredible feel for football, at one point brought a Zidane cross field pass down like an old pro… It is hard to know if this was genuine skill on behalf of Myers, or if Zidane is so good that even once he has passed the ball, he is still in control of it… A quick look at some footage of him in his prime would certainly back my theory up.
The regulation 90 minutes ended in stalemate, 2-2. The most notable thing about the score was that, while three of the goals were taken by former pros… One of the Rest of The World goals was scored by Joe Calzaghe the Welsh boxer. Seeing, as there was a cup at stake, penalty kicks would decide the victor. By this point even, I believed that I was watching real world football; naturally, I was supporting the Rest of The World. Not simply because I’m Scottish, but because Robbie Williams was captain of the England team and I wanted to see him lose. In addition, Woody Harrelson is a bit of a hero to me, as is Zidane and God… Sorry, Henrik Larsson.
The rules of this game dictated that only celebrities could take part in the penalty shoot out. This, I thought, could go on a while. And it did. Mainly thanks to the goalkeeping skills of TV presenter Jamie Theakston, who some years back was caught up in a drug, whores and bondage scandal… It turns out he is pretty handy in goals. Once all the players who had the bottle to take a kick had done so, it rests on the others to step up and be a man… After all, the penalty spot is only 12 yards from goal… Moreover, there were only 65,000 people in the stadium… No pressure.
It went all the way to the second last player in the squad… Two more misses and it would cycle back to the start… It was sudden death and England, following a long tradition of losing penalty shoot-outs, missed a vital penalty leaving the door open to one Woody Harrelson to step up and do something almost every boy who is into football wishes they could do… Score the winner at Old Trafford… I will admit to actually jumping out my seat when he slotted that penalty home, the feeling he must have experienced when the crowd erupted and he realized he had won the game will live with him forever… For a footballer, scoring a goal is the ultimate high; there are very few things that beat it… If any. The winning penalty in a game at Old Trafford in which you shared the pitch with some of the greatest players of recent memory would certainly be hard to beat.
So, if I wasn’t excited enough about the World Cup, that sealed it… In stark contrast on a different channel is the start of the final season of Big Brother… I regularly wonder why people still want to be in this show… Then I realize that it is simply because there are some horrific, untalented and completely vacuous people who live in this Country… One constant with horrific, untalented, and vacuous people is that they all want to be famous, but do not want to work for it.
Sadly I will miss the first couple of games due to work… Nevertheless, I will be settling down on Saturday to watch England-USA, in which I predict a USA victory. They got to the quarterfinals in 2002, and have once reached the semi finals… Albeit in 1930. In 2006, they were the only team to score in open play against soon to be champions, Italy. Again, it isn’t because I am a Scot who automatically wants England to lose… I simply despise most of the English team, John Terry, Frank Lampard et all. I’d rather see them cry after crashing out, then watch them win and use it as justification for getting paid £170,000 per week.
I will go on record here and say that I think this year’s World Champions will be between Argentina, Brazil and Spain. I hope with all my heart that France gets humped in every minute of every game they play. It is almost amazing to watch a team who consistently play with such noticeable arrogance… This will be more amplified this year since they had to cheat to get to South Africa.
I couldn’t tell you what I had for lunch yesterday… I would probably struggle to tell you what I just ate for lunch 45 minutes ago… However, I could tell you what I was wearing the night Italy lost USA ’94 to Brazil on penalties… Tears and sorrow, that’s what I was wearing… Or where I was when Scotland nearly beat the samba superstars in the opener of France ’98. I could go into detail about Italia 90 if I needed to… The World Cup has been a massive part of my life and if I were any more excited about South Africa 2010, I would be in danger of being arrested.
Tune in and enjoy.