FIFA branded Sony Ericsson W995 handset to give away

Like a disgruntled ex-partner arriving at your home with 14-inch two-handed pruning shears and designs on your thumbs, life can sometimes take you by surprise.

Take this week. One minute I’m writing a 200-word rant on why The Socceroos is a rubbish nickname; the next I’m giving a phone away.

That’s right, some marketing bod contacted me to offer a FIFA branded Sony Ericsson W995 handset to one lucky World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 visitor.

You could win the phone for FREE by answering this simple question and leaving your name and address in the Comments box below this post:

Excluding penalties, how many goals did England score in the last World Cup finals?

You have until August 23rd to submit your answer and contact details.

The winner will be announced here on August 24th. Good luck!

If you win the phone, enter your details at www.WinTheTickets.co.uk, including the IMEI number, and you will automatically be entered into a prize draw:

Daily Prizes: 1 x Sony BRAVIA TV

Every day a stylish 40-inch Sony BRAVIA TV is up for grabs.

Weekly Prizes: 2 x pairs of tickets to the 2010 FIFA World Cup

Win two pairs of tickets to a 2010 FIFA World Cup match. Flights and three nights in 4-star accommodation are included.

Grand Prize: 1 x 2010 FIFA World Cup Golden Ticket

This golden ticket entitles the winner to a pair of tickets to every game their country plays – including the final. This once in a lifetime prize includes flights and 4-star accommodation.

PS. If anyone from Sony Ericsson is reading this, I’ve got my eye on your X1 and World Cup finals tickets / accommodation. Just thought you might like to know that.


Early qualifiers for next year Pt 5


Let’s cut to the chase. Anyone who connives in the use of ridiculous footballing nicknames deserves all the bile they get.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Blue Samurai (Japan) is great, if a little pseudo-pornographic.

In the absence of a witty way to say hallucinogenic cake munching quarter final fodder, Oranjes does for the Dutch.

And who could fail to be impressed by the mighty Les Eperviers (The Sparrowhawks) of Togo? Not me.

However, I draw the line at The Socceroos. If ever a nickname was so false and calculated to make even simpletons puke into a bucket, this surely is it.

First, there are plenty of other animals in Australia which could be appended to the word “soccer”. Koalas spring to mind, as do the grey-headed flying fox and the Sugar Glider (a small arboreal possum which, as its name suggests, can glide between trees).

But my real problem is this. The game we are talking about is “football”, not “soccer”. Get that right and I might take a passing interest in the Flying Footy Foxes next summer.


Early qualifiers for next year Pt 4


The first team in the world to qualify is also among the candidates for an early exit, despite some overexcitable chatter from the manager and players.

They have much higher hopes for the Blue Samurai, according to comments allegedly made after the eye-catching 1-0 win in Uzbekistan which sealed qualification.

“We will surprise the world! Hip, Hip, Hurrah!” chanted the players.

Then manager Takeshi Okada, presumably drinking from the same pool of mindless optimism as his squad, chipped in: “We want to raise our level higher as we are aiming for the World Cup last four.”

So that’s higher than a group in which the other teams were Australia, Qatar, Bahrain and Uzbekistan? A group in which they came second, by the way. And Okada’s crack wannabee semi-finalists could only manage draws with two of these after putting the mighty Oman to the sword, erm, 1 – 1.

On this evidence the Blue Samurai will need to raise the bar a bit higher to get out of the first group phase.


The best World Cup goals

If it wasn’t for the pointless narcissism and erratic production values I’d petition the government to attach wires to the head of every adult in the UK and feed 24-hour YouTube coverage into their otherwise befuddled heads.

Obviously I can’t do this, so the next best thing to do is mention footy highlights I recently spotted on a blatantly transparent trawl. You may not agree with these choices, but here are some fantastic goals from the history of the world’s greatest sporting tournament:

Del Piero wraps up the semi against Germany with this extra time beauty in 2006. The other one wasn’t bad either.

Bergkampf’s winner against Argentina in 1998. Worth it for the commentary alone.

Owen takes his bow on the world stage.

The second one against England in 1986. The first is criminal, but this is still superb.

Gemmill for Scotland in 1978. I'll never tire seeing the locals lap this one up.

Gerd Muller and the second goal in the 74 final. Class from one of the greatest ever strikers.

Gerson’s screamer from the 1970 final. The last goal was brilliant showboating. This was genius, and looks even better from behind the goal.

1966 and all that. This one put England on the way to the final.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but this is all a matter of personal choice. And yes, I will get around to finding footage from earlier tournaments in Chile, Sweden, Switzerland and Brazil. Anyone looking for film from France (1938), Italy (1934) or Uruguay (1930) thinks I have too much time on my hands. Talking of which, here are some people who actually do have too much time on their hands:


All hail the marvellous Sean Lock.


World Cup anti-doom-mongering kicks off

Last Friday I noticed and posted an article on the crime, disease and transport problems in South Africa. According to the journalist, next year’s World Cup should be moved to Egypt or Antarctica or Neptune. I forget which. The point is it should go anywhere other than the actual location.

In the interests of balance, here’s another article from the same newspaper. This one has a slightly different perspective. Personally, never having been to South Africa, I can’t say whether this contribution has more or less credibility than last week’s. However, I do know this tournament is in danger of being blighted by fear before a ball is kicked. What do you think?



Early qualifiers for next year Pt 3

South Korea

With seven straight appearances in the finals the South Koreans certainly have the upper hand over their northern cousins. The Taeguk Warriors surpassed the North’s proud record of reaching the quarters in 1966 by going one further in 2002. And their last meeting ended in a victory when the North let in a late goal.

Of course the gloating is kept to a minimum because of that nuclear annihilation issue. And probably because, despite their recent exploits, the South has yet to have its most famous footballing sons immortalised on the silver screen.

Want to know more? Click here for Bob the Moo (no, really) on “The Game of Their Lives”.


World Cup doom-mongering kicks off

A recent Guardian article graphically highlighted the dangers awaiting fans in the urban warfare experience that is modern South Africa.

The journalist first quotes excerpts from official Foreign Office travel advice:

“In all areas of South Africa you should be cautious when out after dark.” “Vigilance” is demanded “at all times” in Durban.

On the subject of transport, the picture isn’t much better. A road heading towards Jo'burg is described by one source as “like snorkelling in a sewer filled with squid ink”.

Later, we read that an Austrian ex-footballer was shot dead in Durban during the draw for the qualifiers. Oh, and nearly 20% of the population has HIV.

Add all this up and the tournament should have been awarded to Egypt or Morocco instead. This is interesting, because the same Foreign Office the journalist quoted says “There is a high threat from terrorism in Egypt. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers, such as hotels and restaurants.” Or football grounds.

As for Morocco, “You should be aware that there is a threat of kidnapping in the immediate and wider regions and particular care should be taken in remote regions and border areas. You should have confidence in your individual security arrangements and maintain a high level of vigilance.” Especially if you’re a foreigner heading to a football match.

I could go on. Anyway, here’s the article in full:



Early qualifiers for next year Pt 2

North Korea

The weird Stalinist one-party one-family state even bastions of democracy and free speech such as China worry about is back. We can only hope the team’s success on the football field postpones their Great Leader’s plans for nuclear suicide to beyond 2010.

Of course the competition went ballistic the last time they put in an appearance. Italy took an early flight home after losing to a Pak Doo Ik bombshell goal at Ayresome Park, Portugal needed Eusebio’s guided missile boots to rescue them in the quarters, Charlton rocketed in a long-range winner during a tense semi, and Geoff Hurst’s tactical strikes saw off West Germany.

Chances of winning? Zero. Chances of sending millions of South Korean and Japanese citizens to underground bunkers. Quite high.


Early qualifiers for next year Pt 1

Here’s the first part of the World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 quick guide to those teams who have bookmarked the Ibis South Africa website and are already looking forward to the Jo’burg equivalent of the continental breakfast:

The Netherlands

Seven games and seven wins; 16 goals scored and only two conceded. Let’s not get too overawed by these stats. Their group included FYR Macedonia, Iceland and an Archie Gemmill-less Scotland, and he gave up scoring goals against the Dutch after that one back in 1978. The Oranjes are a good outside bet for next year but will have to do more than beat former Yugoslav republics and bankrupt rocks in the North Atlantic.


What have we learned from the Confederations Cup?

Several things, in no particular order:

South Africa can host a major football tournament without a breakdown in law and order.

Brazil and Spain will probably do OK, but the latter need a Plan B when Plan A (pass the opposition to death and Ole! Ole! Ole! your way to a stunning victory) doesn’t work.

Italy’s glut of strikers with two left feet will hamper their attempts to retain the trophy. Either that or they’ll have a major corruption crisis and pull together in time to win it again (see 1982 and 2006).

Both South Africa and the USA have made early bids for ‘plucky outsiders who might cause a few upsets’ status.

Swarms of angry bees will invade every stadium. At least that’s what this sounds like:


And if the Lions tour is any guide, sales of Rorke’s Drift tunics, hats and t-shirts will go through the roof next summer. At least they’ll do better than novelty items referring to the crushing defeat suffered just hours earlier at Isandlwana.