Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

I love the World Cup... even if it's not for football

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo

Maybe it's the onset of the years and the seeking of comfort in old familiar rituals, but I'm beginning to love the World Cup. No, seriously.

Heaven knows it's not the football, and there are few out and out totties – and, yes, I do mean Cristiano Ronaldo. No, it's everything else that goes with it.

And it's already started. Countdown to 2014. Cue earnest reports from journalists worried about whether stadia will be built in time. Cue earnest reports from journalists worried about street crime. And, of course, that old chestnut, the "dark side" of Brazil, or Costa Rica, or South Korea, or United States, or ... er ... Germany.

By the middle of next week we will hear that the BBC has sent more people over to the land of Pele than actually live in Wolverhampton. Some WAG will moan about being banned from the England camp this time (no, we haven't forgotten Baden Baden).

We'll have an updated version of Three Lions (48 years of hurt – a hurt now so old that it's developing middle-aged spread and going out for a run to the seaside in the motor on Sundays).

Joe Hart will be on heavy rotation trying to flog us all Head & Shoulders. And we will find out that B&Q wall fixings are the Official Wall Fixings of the England Football Team.

On the local front, some ex-footballer will suggest an all-Ireland football team. This will send no one into a frenzy of debate.

Beyond doubt, either Stevie Gerrard or Wayne Rooney will crack something, and we will all settle in for 24-hour rolling coverage of 'Fracturegate'.

Mind you, some things seem to be missing this time round. England has decided to forego all that breast-beating jingoistic nonsense, which is a winning move in itself. That must be the Roy Hodgson effect.

If Sir Alf was the Stanley Holloway of England managers, Terry Venables the Bob Hoskins and Sir Bobby the Michael Caine, Roy must be the Jack Hawkins, a welcome throwback – if we ever got to see his shoes they would undoubtedly be grey slip-ons.

But, yes, Roy and his lads are firmly in the Above Us The Waves category of Englishness – "Cor Blimey! Let's give it a lash and see what happens. Who knows? Stranger things have happened!"

And this is a good thing. There was nothing more galling than talk of the "golden generation" when it was obvious that Rio, Becks, Owen-ey et al were "golden" only in the QVC shopping channel sense.

Still, I suspect such modesty will only last until 48 hours before the kick-off against Italy, when a tabloid will seriously pose the question 'What has Italy ever given the world?'

But then we will have the football.

In the daytime the weather will be hot and the football torpid. Back in the studio recently sacked football managers will tell us, as if imparting knowledge known only to the Illuminati, that "the heat is a big factor out there".

That's where the Brazilians, the Argentinians, the Italians, the Spanish, the ... er ... Germans and the ... er ... Dutch "have the advantage over our lads". If only Rio (the city, not the footballer) was like Rotherham on a wet day in February, then we would see how much silky skills were worth ...

There will be many, many cutaways to very twitchy-looking managers in the dugout, while the commentator Motsons away some little-known fact.

And beside them on sofas right across the country women will marvel at the withering commentary and expertise of their menfolk and wonder how they can know so much about football yet barely walk the length of themselves.

Cameramen will find improbable mouth-watering beauties (all female, surprisingly enough) in the crowd to focus on.

Then, driven by conscience, they will find a topless England fan and as the camera zooms in, the legend 'Mad Mick – Sunderland AFC' will be visible, inked in inch-high letters round his neck. He will have even bigger breasts than the Copacabana Beach Beauty.

And talking of Copa, expect many, many comedy football compilations featuring the Barry Manilow classic (even if technically his Copacabana was, in fact, north of Havana). When we get bored with those, we will have more wry and rueful compilations featuring The Girl From Ipanema.

And when England crash out in the Group of 16, expect Mike Nesmith's Rio to be dusted off over a close-up of Roy Hodgson's pained face as Lamps lamps a penalty over the bar.

The only thing we don't know about the next eight weeks is who actually will lift the trophy. Oh, okay, we do.

Brazil. (Or Spain. Or, er, Germany.)

Follow me on Twitter: @GWalker9

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