THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

The organisers are getting ready but who will qualify? Ian Plenderleith shows the best places to find out

If you’ve been lying awake at nights wondering what the mascot for the next World Cup is going to look like, you might imagine that nothing could be worse than the feckless man-cum-chicken that adorned memorabilia at France 98. Yet if you happen to be passing through the website of the Thailand national team you will discover that the collective marketing genius of FIFA and the Japanese and Korean organising committees has come up with not one but three half-witted creations that will be acting as symbols for the 2002 tournament.

This trio of as yet unnamed Pokémon/ Teletubby crossovers represents “a family of little creatures who set out to help create a special atmosphere at the World Cup finals”.

Michel Zen-Ruffinen is quoted as being “very excited” by the new, three-dimensional approach to mascotry, which he believes will “help communicate the values of the World Cup to everyone, especially children”. Meaning, perhaps, that all concerned will make a fat wedge out of tat and spin-offs to exploitable kids, but log on for yourself and work out how the animated jellybeans might possibly be connected with football.

The tournament’s emblem, which you can see at the Official site of the Korean Organising Committee, is considerably more pleasing to the eye, even if the explanation behind its design is cant. For example, the gap in the top left hand corner means that “each and every participant stands a chance of winning the trophy”, while the background colour (white) symbolises “purity” in Asia. And, of course, the noble intentions of FIFA too.

On the footballing side, you can take a visual tour of the Korean stadiums, with helpful bar charts informing you how near to completion the stadiums are, and whether or not that fits in with the projected time plan. If the site is to be believed, things seem to be coming along nicely, and the pictures certainly instigated a yearning in this viewer for a Far East holiday the summer after next.

You do wonder, however, if the city of Deagu is ready for the number of footballing pilgrims who will make their way to “the Great Buddha Figure of Reunification and the seated stone Buddha image which legend says can make at least one wish come true”. The pot-gutted deity could be just the lad that England need.

The counterpart official site of the Japanese Organising Committee is similar. It was disappointing, however, to click on “Diet Committee for the 2002 World Cup” and find that this was not a panel of nutritionists set up to get Paul Gascoigne and Ramon Vega in shape for one last stab at international glory. Rather, it’s a list of local parliamentarians, though given the machinations of Japanese politics it might come in handy if you need tickets and have a suitcase full of yen.

If you want to monitor the qualifiers in more detail than you’ll find on the mainstream results sites, Football Asia , the official site of the Asian Football Confederation, covers that continent comprehensively, while the World Cup page of the excellent Africa Newswire Network will be the place to be from the end of January to the end of July. An informative and lucid commentary on Brazil’s faltering progress to Japan and Korea can be read at the Reuters South American Football page.

From WSC 167 January 2001. What was happening this month

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