Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Why chewy Luis Suarez's antics gave me a taste for the Beautiful Game

Eat it: Luis Suarez's bite left a lasting impression

It's been the best World Cup ever, with goals galore and unpredictable results – all infused with the Samba spirit of Brazil. For someone with zero interest in football, I'm finding the 2014 tournament unexpectedly gripping and I might even feel a little bereft after Sunday's spectacular final. I still don't know my offside rule from a corner kick and I probably never will.

This time next week, I suspect I'll have returned to my complete indifference to all things soccer. Until then, I'm a fan. So here's my top 10 favourite things about this World Cup, a newcomer's guide to the Beautiful Game if you like. And very few of them have anything to do with actual football.

1) James Rodriguez. Ladies, you know what I mean about the handsome Colombian player. He's the breakout star of Brazil 2014 after scoring six goals (including the goal of the tournament, I'm reliably informed), he's not afraid to cry and he can play it totally cool when a massive grasshopper lands on his arm.

2) England failing to get beyond the qualifiers, despite having an easy enough group. No further comment required.

3) Penalties. No understanding of complicated rules required. Man kicks ball (while millions bite their nails). Ball either goes into the net or it doesn't. Man either becomes an instant national hero or villain. Simples.

4) Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella falling over on the touchline. If you haven't seen this yet, where have you been? Think Del Boy falling through the bar hatch – only live in front of millions of people. One viewing is simply not enough.

5) Switzerland. With no Northern Ireland in the fray, we all need someone to get behind. Step forward Switzerland, my office sweepstake. 'You've no chance,' a male colleague scoffed. Okay, so they're out, but a surprise second round appearance still gave me reason to whoop.

6) Brazil's drubbing. No sooner had Germany audaciously dumped Brazil out of their own World Cup with a 7-1 blitzkrieg, the genius of Twitter erupted once more. We got pics of Christ the Redeemer captioned 'We lost by that much ...', a mocked-up tilting pitch and, of course, 'We're not Northern Ireland, we're Brazil'.

7) Adrian Chiles in flip flops. The ITV pundits 'beach section' is so bad it has become unmissable telly. The commentators have been trying to look cool against the backdrop of Copacabana beach with their sunnies, shorts and sandals but instead just look like a gang of sweaty, out of shape embarrassing dads.

8) The Colombian dancers. They don't just score lots of goals, those Colombians, they celebrate in style with a funky, co-ordinated, choreographed team dance. Just when you thought it couldn't get any more entertaining, Pablo Armero – known as The Lord of the Dance – breaks out a solo.

9) Brazilian women (This one is for the men). The World Cup cameramen have been doing sterling work keeping an eye on the jubilant crowds, particularly the young women coming out to support Brazil. Isn't it amazing how absolutely no unattractive, overdressed, older women have attended any matches in the entire duration of the tournament?

10) Luis Suarez. You may find this hard to believe but I had never heard of Chewy Luis until he sank his teeth into the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini – and got booted out of Rio. His antics handed the headline writers a dream with the UK press excelling itself in the competition to create the best. My narrow favourite came from The Guardian with 'Eats ... Shoots ... Leaves?'

On song Gerry shows George how to do it

It's been a good month for politicians being put on the spot by the pesky people asking them to do embarrassing things.

First, the Chancellor George Osborne refused to answer the simple(ish) question 'What's seven times eight?' for a child. (The answer, George, is 56!).

He looked worse refusing than he would have getting it wrong. Gerry Adams, on the other hand, would have got understanding for declining to sing a Garth Brooks song on live radio – but decided to share his unique rendition of Tomorrow Never Comes anyway.

Rumours Gerry is to replace Garth at Croke Park remain, thankfully, unconfirmed.

I'm parking mad at Victoria Square

There's nothing like enjoying a nice leisurely morning in Belfast city centre, taking your time to boost the retail industry by shopping and munching your way around for a few hours – until you're hit by an eye-watering parking bill.

The Victoria Square car park really got its money's worth when we parked there on Saturday morning and were charged a whopping £15.30 for four hours and 51 minutes.

Compare that to the £3 were charged in Derry city centre recently for a similar period and you can see why people grumble about the cost of visiting Belfast.

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