World Cupdate

One of the pluses with feeling more distant and less enthusiastic about this World Cup – and football in general, now that baseball has become my favourite sport – is that I feel more capable of rationally analysing the games, the players and the surrounding brouhahas. And then, just as I’m feeling all coolly cynical, something really, really gets my goat.

I watched the first England match, vs USA, in a pub in Southwold, Suffolk, last weekend with beer, friends and a few dozen fervently nationalistic fans. And I really struggled.

I’m not an England fan when it comes to football – I’ve always supported Italy, the 1982 World Cup being one of the most euphoric and influential of experiences of my childhood. The build-up to the finals had already left me feeling dirty and unenthused, but when Adrian Chiles – and I like Adrian Chiles – started spouting ITV-by-numbers jingoistic toss I felt my residual sympathies pour away until, by the time the game started, I was comprehensively supporting the US. The thought of John Terry and Ashley Cole suffering gave me far greater pleasure than the thought of 50 drunkenly triumphant England fans going mental around me.

Fast forward to the BBC coverage of the group games. Needless to say ITV’s is rubbish, but the BBC is rapidly catching them. People may remember my anti-Mark-Laurenson tirade of a few months ago – he may be a cancer, but there are plenty of tumours that are long overdue for excising. Lineker – smug and bland but with an unhappy side order of bitchiness. Alan Shearer, dead-eyed and tedious – showed unusual promise with a surprise rant about the uselessness of France, but otherwise all he could become is a second-rate Laurenson, and no-one wants to see that.

But the worst – the absolutely most offensive, sick-making, forehead slapping uselessness – is Mick McCarthy. I’m not surprised Roy Keane preferred to let down his entire country than play for that clown. If I’m generous (and I don’t feel like being generous), his mind-numbing lack of knowledge or intelligence may just be innate, deserving pity rather than contempt (but still not deserving a TV gig).

But I’m not generous, and I haven’t had a good rant for a while. McCarthy is a bitter man, wallowing in his own prejudices (which tend to revolve around tackles not being like they were in his day, and referees disgracefully applying the laws of the game correctly) and not being able to let go if something offends his wrong-headed sensibilities.

In the Germany vs Serbia game, Miroslav Klose was sent off for two yellow cards, both clear fouls from behind. Not necessarily demanding a card, but Klose can’t have any c0omplaints. The second foul was from directly behind, a foot hooked round the front of the ballplayer (which you’re not allowed to do) which failed to make contact with the ball. It’s a truism that you don’t make that kind of tackle when you’re on a yellow card, especially when the ref has a) already proved heavy-handed in the game and b) has a history of card-flourishing. So, don’t make it, especially not in midfield where there’s no goalscoring chance.

McCarthy, though, was so disgusted at this decision, which “ruined the match” (it didn’t, as it evened it up intriguingly, and in any case it’s not his job to fake it “for the good of the game”), that he huffed and puffed for literally the rest of the match – almost an hour – and turned into a disgustingly biased anti-Serb for the afternoon. Jonathan Pearce, his co-commentator, even called McCarthy out on it live on air, and that never happens. But he was right to.

So, McCarthy, you bigoted, clueless, unlistenable cocknocker (smug and wrong is no way to go through life), I hate you and want you to shut up. Please?

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