Reading your letters page over recent months has led me to the conclusion that many of your correspondents are obsessive on subjects that are essentially trivial. I feel strongly that this valuable space should be reserved for people with something to say. Incidentally, I feel I should point out that in your article on World Cup nicknames (WSC No 137) you refer to Bam Bam as Fred Flintstone’s son, when he was in fact Barney Rubble’s son.
Alastair Walker, Farnsfield
Given that the expanding ethnicity of the modern World Cup allows armchair viewers extraneous glimpses into other cultures, it was enlightening to hear Ron Atkinson’s observation that “Birmingham will be deserted” when Jamaica play, or Brian Moore’s pedagogic comment that some Moroccan players have their “Christian names” printed on their shirts. Careful Brian, fatwahs have been issued for less.
Tony Kinsella, Eccles
As an Arsenal supporter who has been living in Germany for a year and who has consequently not attended a single game of the Gunners (as I believe the younger and trendier element of the team’s support refer to them) all season, I feel uniquely qualified to comment on the article by Martin Cloake on the double season (WSC No 137). Martin seems to have missed the point of the events he writes about. Arsenal fans have always enjoyed attractive, attacking football, although this has not always been played by our own team. The title-winning team of 1989 won purely because we had scored more goals than any other team, and most importantly at the time, Liverpool. Many a time as a season ticket holder I remember standing on the North Bank (see how effortlessly I confirm my credibility as a real fan) or sitting in the Clock End hearing the cheerful refrain “Boring...” being used as a term of derision for teams who had come to Highbury purely with the intention of stifling the natural attacking instincts of the boys in red and white. Finally, far from being unable to cope with our new reputation for playing attacking football, I for one saw Tony Adams’s goal against Everton on May 3rd as a kind of Epiphany, heralding the dawn of a new world order and the end of injustice and exploitation. I’m already in Europe, I’m just waiting for the team to join me.
Ray Boland, Essen, Germany
Following on from the England squad’s highly amusing song title game, it was interesting to hear ITV conclude their coverage of the England-Argentina game with Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life). How bizarre.
Kevin Curtin, Nairn
Why is it that the makers of the rules for major international competitions always seem determined to cause max-imum scope for confusion in interpreting them? As a result, the recent World Cup has witnessed gamesmanship on a hitherto unprecedented scale. I refer of course to the WSC Wallchart. “Choose one sticker to sum up each country’s performance as they are knocked out,” led to to massive debates on a recent holiday. In the group stages, were you meant to choose the sticker if a team was eliminated after only two games – or could/should you wait until they had played their third and final game? At which point did elimination technically occur? Group H was a nightmare; which stickers to allocate for Japan and Jamaica when both were eliminated after their first two games but you knew they still had each other to play in their final game? The knockout stage provided similar trauma. Did you have to apply a sticker after each and every game, or could you wait until the round was complete? I presumed that the former applied, so I immediately awarded Argentina “goodbye and good riddance” – and sweated it out as a Croatian supporter, hoping I would then be able to award what your artist presumed would be the Dutch “own worst enemy” sticker to Germany. Which I did. And the outbreak of gamesmanship? We return to find that supposed colleagues/friends have simply cheated by photocopying the sticker chart, enabling them to award the same sticker to more than one team. “Finger of God” they called it. Bastard, more like. Can you get Sepp Blatter to clarify the rules next time?
Charles Ross, Birmingham.
I’m right with the conspiracy theory aren’t I? The kick-off times for the World Cup have been specially timed to help the argument in favour of selling the games off to satellite stations for 2002, if not Euro 2000. Why, the argument will go, should all matches remain available on terrestrial TV around the world when the likes of Belgium v Mexico, Spain v Nigeria and Yugoslavia v Iran got such poxy viewing figures outside the countries involved? The fact that these games kicked off in the middle of the European working day will be conveniently forgotten. So, in 2002, those who haven’t subscribed to the World Cup package on Sky will probably end up with England and Scotland games if we’re lucky (with the TV deal, and with qualifying), while the whole “festival of football” ideal will disappear up the sponsor’s arse. Perhaps we should be thankful for what we’ve got now and accept the inevitable. Surely, though, I’m not the only reader of this World Cup edition of WSC, sponsored by Budweiser, “this Bud’s for you”, who believes that loss of full terrestrial TV coverage would be an extremely sorry state of affairs.
Tim Kingston, Luton
What a pity that Brian Moore had to bow out as a commentator with his sniffy observation that FIFA could learn a thing or two about presentation ceremonies from the FA Cup final, especially when we were then subjected to an echo of a modern Wembley occasion with We Are The Champions thundering out over the tannoy. At first I was baffled as to why the Star Wars music was played while the French squad were collecting their medals (if they had to have a science fiction theme then surely Barbarella would have been better given that it was at least French). Then it struck me: the man in charge of the music was trying to make a point about the real life Darth Vader and his cronies who were busy handing out the medals. There’s cheeky.
Tony Martin, Bermondsey
Paul Ince claimed last month that tackling was better than sex. He obviously prefers to take the lead in such activities rather than have anything done to him, to judge by his outraged reaction to a late tackle from Adolfo Valencia during the Colombia game. He screamed abuse at the referee for not taking any action and, as is the often the case, seemed on the verge of tears. The Guv’nor, Paul? I think not.
Mike Priestley, Chippenham
I may just be being a little paranoid, but does anyone else think that the introduction of the “time added on” boards at the end of each half is a sinister thing? Call me cynical, but with a newly- elected president of FIFA looking to make his mark on the game, I feel that these boards are the way to a changing of the time limits we currently enjoy. For example, the majority of games in the World Cup have lasted about 3-4 minutes a half extra. What is to stop FIFA saying, “Well, we are playing that much time added on, why not just add five minutes to each half to counter all this obvious timewasting. It would be good for the fans, they would get more for their money,” (assuming of course that prices don’t rise to counter the extra amount of time played). We would now have two halves of football being played at 50 minutes a half. Now, what would stop FIFA saying, “Well, if we’re playing 50 minutes a half, why not split that into four quarters of 25 minutes, so that we can increase revenue, oops, so the footballers get an extra couple of breaks, stay fresher for longer and so provide a better spectacle.”Like I said, I may be being paranoid, but it’s what a lot of people have been after for a while now.
Andy Smith, via email
I was surprised to hear Barry Davies say during the Holland-Argentina game that Arsène Wenger would be disappointed with Dennis Bergkamp’s diving and stamping antics during the World Cup. Au contraire, Wenger went out of his way last season to defend Bergkamp against the desperate conspiracy of referees and defenders who persistently provoked him into getting booked and sent off. I would have thought he would be delighted that Dennis has lost none of his form over the summer.
Steve Bennett, London N22
I assume your reference to “former German national team keeper Harald Schmidt” in last month’s World Cup preview is an example of your inimitable English sense of humour. Harald Schmidt is a talk-show host, who it must be admitted is as offensive in his own way as former national team keeper Harald Schumacher, but is very definitely not the same person.
Ronald Keller, Cologne
* Apologies. The mistake was made during the editing process and was not down to the author of the article
ITV’s World Cup coverage has rightly come in for a slating in the press but I don’t think that the BBC have any cause to gloat. There are signs that the torrent of good publicity that routinely comes Des Lynam’s way whenever there’s a major tournament on has swelled his head. He was far too indulgent with the studio pundits during this World Cup, allowing Ally McCoist to witter on about his bloody betting coups as if anyone cared less and failing to rein in Alan Hansen who was allowed to get away with interrupting the other guests whenever he felt like it. The half-time chat, while better than the advert-infested drek served up by ITV, was usually pretty dire with the mystifyingly intense Martin O’Neill taking an age to make a point and McCoist seeming to be incredibly pleased with himself for no good reason. At times Jimmy Hill was the least irritating member of the panel, and that can never be a good sign.
Mike Ireland, Dorchester
In the wake of Michael Owen’s success at France 98, there’s been plenty of speculation as to which of the current crop of teen prodigies will form the next generation of England stars. We do appear to possess a number of exciting young talents just now, but I think our scientists could be doing more to help cement England’s place as a repository of footballing talent. We lead the world in the field of genetic engineering, so it’s time attention was turned to producing foot-balling twins. Many other countries have had matching pairs of international class players, but, with all due respect to the Futcher brothers, we have not followed suit and show no signs of addressing this issue. Why, for example, was Michael Owen, not met off the plane at Heathrow and, to be blunt, immediately divested of sperm for use in vitally important scientific research? There’s no reason to stop at twins, either. Imagine a set of triplets forming a back three that could run an offside trap based upon telepathic understanding, or quadruplets each possessing the key attributes of the modern midfield player – tackling, passing, shooting and shouting. I am certain that the nation would support the use of lottery funds to underwrite such a project and can see no excuse for it not being discussed at cabinet level in the near future.
Archie Langmuir, Wetherby
From WSC 138 August 1998. What was happening this month