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Toulouse, Haute-Garonne, France
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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

World Cup Special

It's here again. The 'greatest of all world sporting events' (not sure about that one) as so many describe it has once again squirmed and forced itself into our lives, as it does every 4 years. I am myself a fan of sport, but fear not, this is not about to be a gung-ho boyish reflection on how great football is, and how the England team was cheated, and how "the referee's a w***ker". No, in this section I wish merely to draw your attention to several enjoyable (non footballing) things I think have come out of the World Cup. And, as is commonplace on the Moose Blog (and to retain the sporting nature of this thread) I've done them in a top 10 list. Cracking.

10. Controversy

What would any world-renowned event be without a bit of controversy? The balls don't work, the referees make huge errors and the head of world football's governing body, FIFA, is humiliated in front of everyone. My favorite thing about the ball palava was that, whilst so many of the players damned it, the Germans never did. People generally attributed this to their apparent 'no bones about it' mentality. Until someone pointed out that most of the starting XI have individual, and presumably very lucrative sponsorship deals with Addidas. Honest, then.

9. Nationalistic anger / hatred

So England are out. Hardly surprising, given their poor form in both the group stages and the warm-up games. Having said this, the country seems devided about whether to blame the elusive Sepp Blatter and his stone-age footballing laws (see above) or the England team and its manager, Fabio Capello. At least they didn't crash out to the worst ever defeat in their World Cup finals history. Oh, no wait, they did.

8. The WAGs.

Now to the real point of the World Cup, the beautiful women. Referred to as WAGs (wives and girlfriends), Skysports.com provided us with a wonderful, albeit slightly perverted, picture gallery featuring the most attractive of these gold digg - excuse me - goddesses.

7. France's Incredible Journey

If you thought England were bad, thank your lucky stars you aren't French. Being an ex-pat myself, I feel their pain. And also, I'm not English, so I was really gunning for les bleus this time around. Read the story here in full, but the up and down is that they were awful. The country hates the players, the players hate each other, and everyone hates the manager. Ex-manager. Gutted.

6. Maradona
What a man. We all know how brilliant Diego Maradona was as a player. But it seems his real potential has always lay in his ability to rely on motivation alone to train a team. He has no experience in team management, yet his handling of this team has been outrageous, funny, and entertaining from the start. For instance, when asked if he had a reaction to Pele and Platinis' statements about his lack of manegerial class, the mercurial Argentine responded "Pele should go back to the museum. As for Platini, he is French. The French are arrogant. What did you expect?" Forever the diplomat then. He also hugs, cajoles with, and even kisses his players when they score or just do anything generally positive. In fact, he's better entertainment than the football, often. Other highlights include running over a cameraman in a Mini, openly encouraging his players to have sex whilst at the world cup, and promising to run round Buenos Aires naked, should his team win. A fully comprehensive list of these excellent nuggets of fun can be found here.

5. Alan Davies

The affable english comic now hosts a radio show, Armchair World Cup, in which he and two of his mates discuss the more light-hearted aspects of the competition. Highly recommended, espeically if you, like me, want to get involved but don't really like football so much to the extent that you want to watch two countries you've barely heard of battling it out to a 0-0 draw. You can catch the show on BBC Radio 5 Live, Sundays 11-12, and of course on the evergreen BBC iplayer.

4. Commentary Blunders

We all love bloopers, and some of the ones at this year's festival of football have been nothing short of hillarious. My favourite was David Pleat's language mix-up, where during Italy's exit from the World Cup at the hands of the should-have-been-inferior Slovakia, said "and after that goal it looks like it's going to be time for the 2006 champions to say au revoir". Also, there was Abbey Clancy's admission that her favourite cheese was Cathedral City, which cracked me up, and the ludicrous decision by the BBC to include Emmanuel Adebayor on their pundits panel - who is great value every time you switch on. Not only is his english nigh on impossible to comprehend, but he also doesn't even turn his phone off during air time.

3. South Africa (team)

The host nation of this year's FIFA World Cup, South Africa were never going to set the world alight with their footballing ability. Being the first nation in history to fail to reach the knock-out stages of the competition therefore did not come as too much of a surprise - or so my sporting friends tell me. However, it is their wonderfully laid-back approach to their work that merits them the bronze medal in this coveted of lists. Even if you have not clicked on any of the links so far in this blog, you must click on this one, of their changing room pre-game warm-up. It is definately something the england team should consider next time, with a view to chilling out a bit.

2. Music
Music is loved by all, and the visit of the World Cup to the Rainbow Nation has not dissapointed in this respect. The opening ceremony was a blast, featuring one of the Official Songs of the competition, Waka Waka, ably performed by the excellently talented (in both music and beauty) Shakira. Phwoar, her hips still don't lie do they? My favourite however is slightly less well-known. Not an official World Cup song, but brought to fame in Britain by ITV, who chose it as their theme. Vusi Mahlasela's When You Come Back is about the problems of South Africa's past, and the optimism of its future. It encorporates a breath of fresh musical air, and is a fitting African theme to a beautiful country with plenty to celebrate.

1. South Africa (country)
The World Cup is a sporting event, but more importantly it is a world event. The positive effect that such a bringing together of cultures and peoples will undoubtedly have on a country like South Africa is the best part about the whole thing. Such a friendly, humble, welcoming and above all needy nation completely deserves the worldwide unceasing credit it is getting for putting on such a vibrant and enjoyable event. Even for those of us in the world who are not football lovers, we have to admit that the World Cup is indeed a rightful celebration of everything modern South Africa stands for. Peace, friendship and above all equality.

So there it is, my World Cup in a nut shell. Whilst I am aware that many of you are probably by this point finding the whole affair tiresome, the point has to be made that we should not deny it its true effect - which is great news for South Africa, a nation with which we are now so much more pleasantly aquainted with.

Mayibuye iAfrica!

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