Monday, July 10, 2006

Forza Italia

Finito. Sepp Blatter’s bloated festival of football is over. Italy have won their 4th world cup having beaten France in the final at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. The final score was 1-1 after 120 minutes and the Italians buried their shootout hoodoo with a 5-3 win on penalties.

Marco Materazzi headed an 19th minute equaliser after Zidane’s 5th minute penalty recalled both Holland’s 1974 start and Geoff Hurst’s bounced-over-the-line goal in 1966. Zidane wrote himself into the history books joining Hurst and the Brazilians Vava and Pele as the only players to score three goals in world cup finals. Alas he ruined his final appearance by a head-butt which landed on the chest of the Italian goalscorer Materazzi. The world awaits the verdict on what the Italian said to motivate this extraordinary action. One can assume that it wasn't an invite to come around for an evening of mah-jong. Whatever he said, the incident was missed by the referee and linesman but picked up on the video by the fourth official. Zidane had to make do with the Player of the Tournament award instead. The Italians hit a flawless set of five penalties. Trezuguet missed his and Fabian Grosso had the honour of scoring the winning penalty to send his country into raptures.

Some highlights of the tournament:

Graham “Three Cards” Poll. Poll was the only English referee in the cup. He was in charge of the powder keg Australia v Croatia game. With a few minutes to go he booked the Croatia no 3 Josip Simunic. Unfortunately in the heat of the moment he wrote down no 3 Craig Moore, his opposite Australian number. So when he booked him again a few minutes later Simunic was about to walk off the field when he noticed that Poll wasn’t going to brandish the red. But just for good measure Simunic transgressed again at the very end and got his third yellow and first red. Croatia went home into the bargain. Poll’s fellow referee, Russian Valentin Ivanov also gets a special mention for hectic 16 yellows and four reds in the 2nd round game between Portugal v Holland.

On June 27, an Islamist group in southern India have complained that many youths in the region have "gone mad" over football during the World Cup Finals. They have and are trying to dissuade them from watching matches. "Wherever you go, you see (youths) wearing jerseys of various teams. It's like idol worship which our religion doesn't promote in any form," said Sattar Pathallur, secretary of the Sunni Students Federation in Malappuram district of Kerala state.

The reason England were rubbish at the world cup: because of the WAGS (Wives and Girlfriends). This group of women led by Victoria Beckham were all holed up in the same five star hotel in Baden-Baden 20 miles from their partners. They proceeded to spend big in the town. They grabbed the headlines with drunken antics and phone calls to husbands at 4am. By day, the wags hunted in packs for designer gear. By night, their behaviour they danced on tables and ran up huge bar bills. The world cup made stars of Frank Lampard's partner Elen Rives and Joe Cole's personal trainer girlfriend Carly Zucker. If only England’s players had performed this well. Brazilian newspaper Gazeta Esportiva put it best, 'the WAGs are anorexics addicted to shopping with hollow lobotomised heads.’

The Vatican meanwhile lamented the flood of prostitutes into Germany for the World Cup, saying it cheapened the dignity of women, "who cost less than a ticket to a soccer game." How do they know how much it costs? A U.S. congressman estimated that as many as 40,000 women could be brought into Germany as sex workers, although some German officials have questioned those numbers. Prostitution is legal in Germany, and some 400,000 registered sex workers pay taxes and receive social benefits. In the end, the predicted industry boom failed to materialise. Hundreds of Czech, Russian and Spanish prostitutes left Germany before the quarter-finals due lack of demand. 'We saw it all so differently,' said a Colombian. 'I just sat in my brothel alone.'

The lonely ladies were not the only ones to see it differently. To Angola goes the award for the best named players in this tournament: Goliath, Akwa, Loco, Freddy, Love, Rats.

Loco Freddy love rats indeed! Roll on South Africa 2010.

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