Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Billy on the Box: Euro 2012 quick on the draw? You must be kidding

Hopefully Olga will be able to help Michel Platini free himself from the trophy before Spain inevitably win the Euro 2012 title next summer

If the Euro 2012 finals are even a smidgen as exciting as the draw for the main event then we’re in for one zany bumper summer of fun.

Euro pain: Hopefully Olga will be able to help Michel Platini free himself from the trophy before Spain inevitably win the Euro 2012 title next summer

Indeed as a crack Ukrainian pop combo were wheeled out at the end of what seemed like weeks in Kiev to give a first airing to ‘Endless Summer’, one of the competition’s official songs, I was more concerned that the never-ending winter would still be in full swing as Fabio and Trap were boarding the plane back east.

The BBC had clearly had a premonition of how turgid the draw would be, trying to lighten the mood by enlisting the services of Mark Lawrenson and Martin Keown, two men who would make Timmy Mallett kick the cat.

“Are you looking forward to the extravaganza that is the Euro 2012 draw, Mark?,” asked Gary Lineker.

“No,” came the reply.

Gary, now slightly panicked, tried in vain to lift the mood, but Lawro was having none of it.

“As we know extravaganza is just such the wrong word. Thirty minutes to draw the balls? Just get on with it,” he hinted.

“Do you hate Christmas as well, Lawro?” Lineker laughed nervously as a director was no doubt screaming ‘we’re losing them, we’re losing them’ in Gary’s considerable lughole.

“No, I love Christmas. I’ve sat through too many, absolutely boring as hell.”

“Please stay, don’t listen to Lawro, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

But for once he did, Jonathan Pearce rudely interrupted by a folk dance ensemble, who he told us used to entertain the troops on the frontline in World War II. Oh, how I wished a stray tank had trundled onto that stage.

Then something even more menacing appeared, an alluring but threatening-looking blonde presenter named Olga Freimut, who looked like she’d have shoved a poison-tipped umbrella up your Urals without a second thought, but some of the mystique disappeared when Pearce told us she was a Fulham fan.

Her partner on stage was Piotr Sobczynski, a fellow TV star, picture Tina Campbell and Noel Thompson in a mood and you get the idea, and any wonder because they’d had to sit through all the nonsense in rehearsal.

So after some dancing, the President talking a lot of complete old Cossacks, a Crimean rapping lady, who looked like Donna Traynor |(maybe pictured), clip after clip of past tournaments, it was time for a special guest — Sergei Bubka with a lovely new ball.

Inspired by tradition, inspired by the game, we were told, which was as just as well as Sergei would have looked pretty daft dandering out with a rugby ball, rather than the lovely new Adidas Tango 12.

I don’t wish to show my age here, but I had the Tango ball from the 1982 World Cup, although it wasn’t brought to me by a pole vaulting giant — my granda found it in a skip.

Then it was the turn of Gianni Infantino, Uefa’s wee draw man and Italian crèche, to bring things down a notch or two, with some interesting details about the technical aspects of the draw.

I was longing for Graham Kelly to turn up to add some excitement the way he used to do in the FA Cup but the draw finally came to an end just as daybreak was upon us.

And in a neat, if slightly contrived link, that takes me onto Adrian Chiles on ITV for another draw.

“However jaded I might get in midlife, with the thought of the Third Round draw, I get this rising sense of terror and excitement,” he repeated about nine times and it was the same feeling when I turn ITV on before 9.00am.

The excitement quickly disappeared as we went over to Jim Rosenthal, accompanied by the dreariest music in the world, for the draw to be carried out by Gianfranco Zola and Li Tie.

And Li quickly made his mark with the tie of the round, as the two Manchester clubs were paired in a draw that even Lawro would get excited by.

Or maybe not.

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