Foot in Mouth Disease
Coleman’s heirs are having a field day in Portugal. Quite apart from the difficulties presented by pronouncing the names of little known Greek, Russian and Swiss players, more serious faux pas are piling up. ITV commentator Clive Tildsley will surely regret crowing that France’s Spurs-bound manager, Jacques Santini, would be taunted by chants of 1-0 at every Tottenham game next season – shortly before Zidane shot down England’s hopes in their opening match. And Sir Bobby Robson demonstrated that he is still ‘with it’ by summarising the opening minutes of the England-Switzerland game with “the Swedes have had the much better start”. Mark Lawrenson, watching the Croatia v France encounter, weighed in with: “It’s a disco ball, isn’t it? When you were in discos in the 70s, you saw lots of those”. Enough said – a sentiment that also applies to TV panellist Gordon Strachan. Anyone not from Glasgow would greatly appreciate subtitles!
England’s boy wonder Wayne Rooney held onto his record as youngest-ever goal scorer in a European Championship for barely a week. Swiss teenager Volanthen’s strike against France set a new mark. At 18 years and four months he is three months Rooney’s junior.
The completion of the group stage of the competition also meant that those players carrying yellow cards started into the quarter-finals with a clean slate. All previous bookings were annulled.
Scanning the list of items the England squad brought with them to Portugal, several catch the eye – 864 cereal bars, blueberry, orange and apple flavours (that’s 37 for each player and 13 for Sven!), 1,000 servings of custard, 26 kilos of rice pudding, 36 bottles of salad cream and five kilos of maple syrup! No wonder Owen Hargreaves suffered from an upset stomach. For entertainment, 200 books, 100 CDs, 100 DVDs and 10 Xbox and Playstation consoles surely caused some excess baggage problems? To make sure that players look their best in Portugal, 260 bottles of suntan lotion (various protection factors), 144 bottles of insect repellent, 24 tubs of styling mousse and 240 razor blades were crammed into the shelf-space in the Solplay Hotel bathrooms. Wouldn’t it have been easier to send someone to the shops in Lisbon?
Swedish success in Portugal has caused a 20 per cent increase in beer consumption in the Scandinavian country. Almost four million of a total of nine million Swedes saw the game against Denmark on television and presumably drank beer.
Ve have vays of
making you laugh
Historically the most successful side in European Championship competition, Germany, winners in 1972, ’80 and ’96, have had little to laugh about in recent months. To prove that they have retained their sense of humour, a German TV show stunt recently won an award on Britain’s ITV television station. The sketch, filmed by a hidden camera on a public street, showed a building site worker disappearing in a large puddle never to be seen again (an aqualung had been placed at the bottom of the specially dug pit). Maybe adversity leads to hilarity, because only eight years ago, German TV turned down a British sketch, in which a road sweeper, after looking around furtively, lifted up the corner of a fake pavement, sweeping the rubbish underneath it. A stony silence from the German channel executive was followed by a solemn explanation as to why the episode would not work.“Here in Germany”, he said “we do not have pavements that you can lift up like that”. How times have changed!
Shortly before the last matches in England’s Group B, worries about terrorism replaced those concerned with hooliganism. A Croatian fan set off a smoke bomb in an underground station, leading to a rapid evacuation of the Lisbon locality. In Coimbra, the Air Force was scrambled after the no-fly zone over the stadium was penetrated, only to find another fan ‘buzzing’ the game in a micro-lite aircraft. In both cases, the perpetrators were arrested.
UEFA received 900 requests for accreditation from journalists for the Portugal-England quarter-final. As the Estadio da Luz ‘only’ has facilities for 600, a careful process of elimination became necessary.
Euro 2004 has broken all records for incoming and outgoing flights at Portuguese airports. Lisbon has registered an 27.5 per cent increase in air traffic on the same period last year, Faro 19.6 per cent and Porto a staggering 73 per cent. At the same time, air traffic control is limiting flights to 16 per hour in Porto, 25 in Faro and 32 in Lisbon for safety reasons.
Touts in Portugal from as far afield as the US have had a tough time. Reports of arrests, confiscation and expulsion by police litter the daily press. Yet the trade in much sought-after tickets is a lucrative one. Black market rates topped 2,000 euros per ticket for England’s quarter-final with Portugal.
Out of joint
Czech superstar and European Footballer of the Year Pavel Nedved has kneecaps that are split into three, a condition known as patella tri-partitia. This fact may explain his close ball control as well as his shuffling running style.
England v Portugal gave rise to supporters from 91 different countries acquiring tickets to watch the spectacle – a new record for the tournament.
In the pink
Portugal’s rising young Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo has the dubious honour of being voted ‘Sexiest Player at Euro 2004’ by the country’s gay community. An informal vote held on the ‘Portugal Gay’ website awarded second place to Nuno Gomes, with Pauleta in third.