Ian Plenderleith embarks on his annual search to unearth that rarest of cyberspace entities – the funny football website. The good news is, he is successful this time. The bad news is, not very often

Some years ago this page printed a very unkind review of a new football “satire” website called Sports Offensive , which res­ponded by publishing an admittedly pertinent parody of the author’s regular online column. Since then, and having added the sub-heading “Big Games – Big Lies”, the site has gone from mindless crudity to witty burlesque, inspired in the main by both the hyperbole and inanity of mainstream sports journalism.

Its news stories stick to the first rule of satire – keep it brief so you don’t labour the joke. Most of them work to varying degrees, even if the headlines alone are sometimes enough to tell the story, such as Rooney dumps folks. The dig at the new Tottenham manager’s limi­ted linguistic ability hits home in the first line with, “Jacques Santini today issued this deaf­ening war cry to his White Hart Lane troops: ‘Hello my name is Jacques. I am fifty three years old and I live in London’.”

Particular praise must go to both the car­toon strip “Colly’s Boots” and “The Terry Far­rell column”, a wonderful work that highlights all the fulminating righteousness and syco­phantic hypocrisy of the worst British sports hacks. Under the headline FA filth makes me ill!, Farrell pre-supposes with a sense of excited condemnation what it is that Sven-Göran Eriks­son has been getting up to in his office: “In and out he went, his rimless glasses slowly misting up as he emotionlessly hammered away, in, out, in, out with increasingly deliberate jabbing strokes like some sort of gro­tesque Swedish sewing machine.”

The relative quality of Sports Offensive be­comes clear when you click to the competition through its Links page. Reading Shitesports is a bit like getting stuck at the bar with the pub pisshead – all swearing, no humour and something of a relief to move away from. Though they’d surely be tickled by the final verdict, namely that it’s shite.

Spoof-Footy hasn’t been updated since last year and that’s maybe not a bad thing. Its parodies are as subtle as its name, which might as well include the explanatory: “We’re a right bunch of cards who take the mickey out of footie!” At LaughFC , meanwhile, it never happened.

Another webzine that has remained out of commission for a while is The Golden Boot , “the thinking person’s football webzine writ­ten by thinking people”. You can’t help thinking this could be something to do with writer Steve Heald’s prediction before the start of last season that “Arsène won’t need the Brasso for a while” and that Man Utd would once again romp the Premiership. The problem with old internet pages is that sometimes they hang around forever, but at least they can be more amusing than “spoof” items.

Some of the headlines at the Halftime web­site are funny enough, although the art­icles themselves are as thin as the rest of the site. “O’Leary: Give me £150 million and I’ll get Villa into the big time” and “Bush names Cardiff City as fourth element in axis of evil” hint at comic promise, even as the prose beneath fails to follow through.

The same applies to a lesser extent to the stalwarts at The Onion Bag , now 59 editions old, where headlines such as Robson: I’m still England boss! and FIFA Ban Goals promise much to start with but again disappoint at length. The story FA Sex Romp Sensation, however, once more sees steaminess inspire the best in domestic lampoonery, with “lonely jazz fan” and “58-year-old virgin” Graham Kelly lamenting that the FA was never like that in his day.

Despite these occasional oases of comedy, the problem with scanning the web for hum­orous sites is that in the end it becomes quite depressing, which clearly defeats the point. You find sites like 101 Football Jokes and start vowing never to leave the house again in case someone comes up to you, tells you one, and then heartily slaps you across the back in expectation of a huge belly laugh (and what’s the betting that the bloke who tells you it has a huge belly himself?). It’s not just that these jokes aren’t funny, it’s the thought that some­one thought it worth the effort to construct a web page for the delight of the cyber-visiting world that really holds the tears of laughter in check.

In the spirit of internet football satire, this month’s review is utterly bereft of a sparkling and pithy closing line.

From WSC 212 October 2004. What was happening this month

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