Ich Bin Ein Hamburger
Few of us like Mondays but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from the past week in football.
Super Hamburg, St Pauli
I'm on the road again this week chums, and in the delightful (but absolutely freezing) port city of Hamburg, primarily for a Friday night appointment in the red light district, known here as the Reeperbahn. Not the sort of meeting you might be thinking of thank you very much; it came at the Millerntor Stadium to see Europe's favourite left-wing club St Pauli in action against Kaiserslautern.
A throughly enjoyable affair it was too, as thanks to the friendly staff and my burgeoning international reputation, we secured a place behind the goal with the club's ultras and found ourselves knee deep in punks. An impressive repertoire of songs were unleashed, including one to the tune of Karma Chameleon, and it felt like a throwback to the days of old in England, as beer flowed as freely on the terraces as the driving snow from the heavens. Sadly though, it was while trying to enhance our beer jackets (that magical fug of alcohol that helps to block out the cold) that we missed the winning goal.
If that was a slight disappointment, the only mildly perturbing moment came as a grinning, seven-foot skinhead punk linked arms with me for no discernable reason, though my worst fears were calmed when a few seconds later a burst of crazed pogo-ing ensued. We followed my new best friend to the pub of his choice after St Pauli's 1-0 win, an establishment full of what can only be described as mentally-challenged alcoholics. It wasn't the most salubrious bar I've ever been in - more like a social experiment - but it could have been worse as the place across the road was entitled: "Four Floors of Whores". Colleen Rooney and Sir Alex Ferguson must be hoping and praying Manchester United never pull Hamburg in the Champions League.
World Cup farce
It came as no surprise whatsoever that Russia and Qatar were plucked from the hat as winners of the 'see who can press the most flesh and cosy up to our inflated egos' competition led by Football's International Farce Association (FIFA). It came as even less of a shock that the second the announcement had finished a predictably large amount of brown stuff promptly made its way towards the fan so it could be hurled in all directions.
England, of course, were at the front of the queue, labelling FIFA's executive committee a "disgrace". Not only did they have the best technical bid they were also top of the list when it came to maximising the stuff FIFA likes best - cold hard cash - all of which earned them two paltry votes. It rendered even more pathetic the sight of the future King of England, David Cameron and David Beckham - the Prince, the Prime Minister and the prima donna - kissing whichever rear-ends they could find in the hours leading up to the vote. Excellent bids from the USA and Australia also attracted scant support.
They should have seen it coming, especially when Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin said he would only fly to Zurich if they won. By neglecting to turn up for the last minute arse-kissing contest, he clearly knew it was in the bag, and I heard talk that Qatar would win the 2022 bid as far back as July. Even the chief buffoon, Sepp Blatter, said it was a mistake to run the two bidding proccesses concurrently, leaving question marks of collusion hanging in the air like the stink of the organisation itself.
I am biased towards England of course, yet I'm also all for taking the tournament to pastures new. However, Russia's bid report was average at best, saying the transport infrastructure isn't up to scratch, while in Qatar they will have to build air conditioned stadiums for the matches to take place out of reach of the searing desert heat. Neither destination will set many pulses racing for potential visitors, but having watched the entire flawed proccess unravel, perhaps unearthing the corruption that exists within, the British media have done the country a favour.
Let's face it, if FIFA were a dog, it'd have been put down long ago.
Prime Minister's Questions
Prime Minister Cameron was televised giving his predictions for the weekend's fixtures. He said he has been "impressed by Wigan" this season. It's a truly worrying piece of analysis from the man tasked with leading the nation out of a deep recession.
Cammy picked a 6-0 win for his beloved Aston Villa (they are playing Liverpool so you never know) and, along with that other Villa ultra Prince William bringing home two paltry World Cup votes, gave us all the proof we need that if you went to Eton then perhaps you should just button it when it comes to football.
It also brought to mind the deep-heat-in-your-pants eyewateringly earnest interviews with then PM Tony Blair, of head tennis with Keegan fame, in which he quite credibly picked out Steed Malbranque as his favourite footballer. It's just the wheels fell off his "I'm down with the kids" train when he claimed to have been a lifelong Newcastle United fan who'd grown up watching Jackie Milburn from the seats behind the goal. Wrong decade for Milburn, Tony, no seats behind the goal then, Tony, sack that researcher Tony, and you can button it about football too.
Lo and behold, Saturday's most entertaining encounter was between the impressive Wigan (18th) and Stoke. Perhaps Camo singled out Wigan as impressive on account of their incredible turnover of playing staff, or a goal difference only better than Yeovil, Wycombe and Stockport across all four divisions.
Much like a hastily-formed coalition the Wigan players in this team barely know each other, and can't wait for whatever comes after this interim arrangement. Of the players involved on Saturday, seven joined in 2010 and only Manuel Figueroa has been there long enough to know who George Formby is or that Wigan Pier isn't at the seaside.
Joe Kinnear must have allowed himself a little sleepy smile when Hendry Thomas somehow managed to shovel wide from four yards from that other loyal club man, Charles Insomnia; the sulky Frenchman (now confirmed as French after also courting England and the DR Congo for an international career) will be convinced it has cost him a move to Real Madrid in the January window. The sketchy sulk put in a class display as Wigan's salvaged point keeps them impressively rooted in the bottom three.
Chelsea's amusing fall from grace continued in earnest, as they were booed off by their ever patient and encouraging fans after a dismal home draw with spirited Everton. The champions are shedding their confidence at an alarming rate, as Carlo Ancelotti feels the full force of one of Roman Abramovich's sporadic bouts of tinkering.
You know you are truly in a trough when even Jermaine Beckford finds the net against you. Bar one reasonable swing of the boot against Bolton, the former Leeds striker has managed to squander chance after gilt-edged chance to haul the Toffees out of their mid-season funk, much to the chagrin of his manager, who has not only tried the carrot and stick approach, but also the cold-shoulder and hairdryer before settling on his current setting of casual indifference.
But on Saturday at what is becoming the very hospitable surroundings of Stamford Bridge, barn-door Beckford was presented with a chance even he couldn't miss as Chelsea stretched their wretched run to one win in six games. At this rate, and having already surrendered top spot, it won't be long before Everton pass these faded stars on their way up the table.
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