‘Over the moon’ in June

A World Cup watcher prepares for his trip to Japan, and gives the latest on offensive umbrellas, the Puccini wars and Beckham's hosiery.

Rob Lyons
Columnist

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The enemy within

I know bad dress sense is pretty much de rigeur at Le Coupe du Monde, but if you’re going to South Korea watch out for anyone looking casual in a man-at-Marks-and-Spencer’s way – he could be a copper. According to Ananova, 14 countries have agreed to send hooligan spotters to the tournament. I will make sure to behave myself if I see someone in jeans and a polycotton shirt who looks like Nigel Mansell.

14 countries will dispatch hooligan spotters to South Korea, Ananova, 28 March 2002

Turning an opera into a crisis

ITV and high culture. The two go together like fish and bicycles, if I may allude to old feminist jokes for a moment. But clearly ITV can see the possibilities of bringing a bit of culture to the working man by choosing ‘Un Bel di Vedremo’ from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly for their World Cup theme music. With just a nod to the success the BBC had with another Puccini crowd-pleaser, Nessun Dorma, back in 1990.

But wait a minute. The Koreans, it turns out, are none too pleased with all these references to Japan in the build-up to the tournament. ESPN.com quotes Hyon Tak Hwang, press and cultural counsellor at the Korean Embassy, as saying: ‘I do not think it is fair that ITV has chosen music that the viewers will associate very much with Japan through Madame Butterfly.… The World Cup is taking place in Korea also and I will be discussing the matter with ITV in the hope of persuading them to change to a more neutral choice of music.’

Korea tells ITV to ground its butterfly, Soccernet, 28 March 2002

Brussels and chips (on the shoulder)

While we’re on the subject of bizarre-World-Cup-related-requests-made-by-Koreans, the churches there have taken umbrage at the nickname of the Belgian team, ‘The Red Devils’. ‘Devils are the enemies of Christians’, ecumenical leader Shin Hyon-Kyun was quoted as saying in the newspaper La Libre Belgique. The hope is that the team will adopt a less offensive name, like ‘the Red Tigers’.
‘Pas de chance!’, (or words to that effect), said Belgian federation spokesman Nicolas Cornu. ‘We’ve had the name for about 70 years and until now no one has complained. I think we’ll be sticking with it.’

Belgium to keep Red Devils nickname, Soccernet.com, 2 April 2002

Raincheck

The hooligan clampdown continues with the news that umbrellas will be confiscated from fans entering the stadiums this summer, despite the fact that June is one of the wettest periods in the Japanese calendar. ‘Normal umbrellas will be confiscated. Unless fans want to get wet, they should bring nylon raincoats or small folding umbrellas so as not to obstruct people’, Japan World Cup Organising Committee (JAWOC) security chief Takahisa Ishida told reporters in Tokyo. Who are they expecting trouble from? Hell’s Grannies?

Which led me to check out the JAWOC website. There I found the ‘Rules for Spectators and Visitors to Studia [sic] and Other Facilities’. Article 3 precludes certain items from stadia. Obviously firearms are excluded, along with sharp instruments, poisons and drugs. Also excluded are stones, bottles, cans, plastic bottles (with or without their caps), laser pens, whistles, gas-horns, flagpoles, tripods, sticks, hammers, screwdrivers and umbrellas (except of a folding variety judged harmless by security staff).

Then there’s ideological offensiveness: ‘Notice boards, standing signboards, horizontal or vertical banners, streamers, flags, placards, number bibs, documents, designs, printed materials, etc, which show, or are likely to bring to mind, political, ideological or religious doctrines, assertions or concepts, or which may otherwise hinder the conduct of the Event.’ Will this cover ideological doctrines like nationalism? In that case, the tournament designed to find out which country has the best football team should be cancelled forthwith. (And who exactly will be offended by a number bib?)

And there’s the miscellaneous stuff: alcoholic beverages, confetti (so as not to make a mess), helmets, large amounts of luggage or large-size luggage – like ice chests, objects displaying company names for the purposes of advertising (better warn Nike, Reebok and co).

Article 4 goes into acts you shouldn’t do. Most of it is run-of-the-mill stuff – but fans are notably asked to refrain from demanding interviews; soliciting, making speeches or proselytising; lighting fires; and covering their faces with masks (thank god Scotland won’t be there).

All of which means that fans can look forward to queues of up to three hours to get into the stadia – either in the rain, or in the sun with temperatures in the high 20s and no way of bringing a drink into the ground. Never mind the hooligans, what about the heat exhaustion?

Political football

Bodyguards for Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, rushed into his office when they heard a loud bang, assuming he’d collapsed. However, inside was a slightly embarrassed leader, kicking a football against the office wall. He was, it turns out, getting in a bit of practice ahead of his role in performing a ceremonial kickoff in the game between Japan and Costa Rica. He later told the media, ‘I was wondering how I should kick the ball. I only kicked it a little bit’.

His mum has been informed and the ball has been confiscated until he tidies his room.

Off the post

Stamps issued to celebrate Italian glories in the World Cup issued by the tiny state of San Marino will have to be replaced after they got some of the scores wrong. They record Italy as beating Czechoslovakia 4-2 in the 1934 final (actually, 2-1 after extra time) and beating Hungary 1-0 in the 1938 final (it was actually 4-2).

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘settling old scores’.

Italian glory mistakes on World Cup stamps, Ananova, 2 April 2002

You’re so vein (you probably think this sock is a boot you)

Vale of Glamorgan MP John Smith has written to Sven-Goran Eriksson and the FA to advise them about deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) with the long flight to Japan ahead of them. He suggests all the players wear compression socks to avoid blood clots, following reports that Japanese player Naohiro Takahara suffered DVT after a similar journey. ‘We know that compression socks and hosiery significantly reduce the risk of developing this condition’, said Smith.

We tried to find out from Victoria Beckham what kind of hosiery she would be suggesting for David, if he makes it on to the plane, but she was unavailable for comment.

MP tells Sven to kit England team with anti-DVT socks, Ananova, 25 April

Blood clot problem hits Japan striker after flight World soccer news, 20 April 2002

Left winger says: vote for right winger

Robert Pires, who plays at left wing for Arsenal and France, has claimed the French team would boycott the World Cup if Jean-Marie Le Pen is elected president of France this weekend. ‘We are French but the team’s roots are from everywhere, so it would make it an impossibility to play for your country if France is governed by the far right. As players we have the responsibility to show people that they must react to this threat quickly. I urge everyone to vote for Jacques Chirac.’

Clearly this is a very courageous statement by Pires, considering that he’s out of the World Cup with injury anyway, and Le Pen is more likely to celebrate Ramadan than win the election.

Pires’ World Cup warning, BBC Sport, 3 May 2002

Thanks to Duleep Allirajah, Geoff Kidder and David Dunn for story suggestions.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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