It used to be good being Swiss, apparently. Now the country that gave us the cuckoo clock and Toblerone finds itself without an airline and, worse still, without World Cup soccer on the telly next year.
Still, you could be French. Although at least then you would have half a clue what the likes of Philippe Troussier, Gerard Houllier and Arsene Wenger are on about.
Take Troussier, for instance. Don’t get me wrong. He has done a wonderful job since taking charge of Japan, but he does come out with some extraordinary twaddle from time to time, like when he tried to convince us that Masashi Motoyama was the “Japanese Ryan Giggs.” After seeing his experimental side lose 2-0 to Senegal in Lens on Oct. 4, Troussier said, “The only thing positive about the game was the halftime sandwiches and cup of tea.” This was not twaddle.
Couldn’t have put it better myself, although why Troussier is still fiddling with his lineup after the success he has enjoyed this year with virtually the same group of players is a mystery. (Almost as curious as having sandwiches at halftime, in fact.)
Even Nozomi Hiroyama got a game on the European trip after making the effort to travel from Paraguay. Hitherto, the only plus about being dragged halfway around the world to sit on the Japan bench had been the air miles. Hiroyama need not have bothered. He was awful.
After the 2-2 draw against Nigeria on Oct. 7, Troussier called the trip a “success” and said he had gained “valuable information” about his players, by which we take it to mean he knows Shinji Ono’s favorite Nintendo game and that Koji Nakata can’t sleep without a bedtime story.
However, one defeat and one draw gets you precisely one point, admittedly one more than Luxembourg in the Eurovision Song Contest but not really good enough against two teams Japan could meet at home during next year’s World Cup finals.
(Before Walter Smegg from Oita writes again, yes I KNOW there are no points available for friendlies but as results go, they were poor.)
Then there is Houllier, who took time out from roasting Robbie Fowler over a spit to deliver another cracker last week. The Liverpool manager actually called his players “heroes” after they were knocked out of the Worthington Cup 2-1 at home to First Division Grimsby Town. Come again, Gerard? The word you are looking for is “humiliation.” At least Wenger is consistently daft/blind. “I couldn’t see from my angle,” “It definitely wasn’t Patrick’s fault” and “I was watching two pigeons doing it on the roof of the Clock End” are regular excuses whenever an Arsenal player is sent off (which is most weeks).
First some good news. Japanese World Cup organizers (JAWOC) are promising to give us “security with a smile” next year. The bad news is that you will probably have to endure a full cavity search by one of at least 700 security officers in place at each World Cup game here. No laughing matter.
Still unclear at this stage is whether no-fly zones will be imposed over World Cup venues during the tournament, an idea proposed by South Korean organizers in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. As the Japanese government grapples with the issue of restricting the nation’s airspace, there is another, more direct threat to the security of the World Cup that needs to be tackled: YAKISOBA.
A university study has shown that prolonged exposure to greasy fried noodles can result in dangerously high testosterone levels, a condition, experts say, that is likely to be exacerbated when in contact with a large crowd at a soccer match.
Early symptoms are said to include the desire to boo the opposition’s national anthem and to flob on the floor. This will be followed by an immediate neurological meltdown causing the victim to slur and forget all words in his vocabulary longer than one syllable (with the exception of the classic refrain “The referee’s a banker.”) Personally, I am willing to believe anything backed up by scientific fact and so to avoid the risk of hooligans running amok, I hereby urge JAWOC to impose a NO-FRY ZONE in and around World Cup stadiums next year. Come on, Mr. Ishida. You know it makes sense.
So, when JAWOC bows to the inevitable and issues a press release on no-fry zones at World Cup venues, you can be sure it won’t be a typing mistake, which will make a nice change.
Unlike a notice which was spotted on the door of the organizing committee’s office at the World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka this summer telling us the officials were “OUT TO RUNCH.” This, I thought, would make a splendid title for an awards ceremony. So let’s have a crack. Here’s my shortlist of those involved in the world of sport “in any capacity” who have truly gone bonkers in recent weeks:
1. SkyPerfecTV — Last year, we got Manchester United every week, with a bit of Charlton Athletic thrown in. This year, we have Arsenal and, as if that’s not bad enough, Bolton Wanderers every week. That’s BOLTON WANDERERS EVERY WEEK! Now I hate to point out the obvious, but Junichi Inamoto and Akinori Nishizawa are not even on the bench. Viewers are having to shell out more money to watch Arsenal bore us to death and a bunch of hod carriers from the north of England. EVERY SINGLE WEEK. Heaven forbid that the chain-smoking troglodytes in charge of scheduling at SkyPerfecTV show some common sense and screen the day’s top game live. Then again, we’d miss that three-second shot of Nishizawa picking his nose up in Row Z.
2. WOWOW — As above, but with Arsenal and Feyenoord getting blanket coverage in their Champions League campaigns. At least Parma failed to qualify.
3. Koji Nakata — I would have paid good money to hear Troussier tell Nakata, “Just because you’ve got that permanent just-woken-up look on your face, doesn’t mean you have to play like Rip Van Winkle” (or words to that effect) after the Kashima defender’s mistakes against Senegal.
4. Sadaharu Oh — Admittedly not soccer related, but shouldn’t there be some sort of fine imposed on the Daiei Hawks manager for bringing Japanese baseball into disrepute? Oh’s desperation not to allow Tuffy Rhodes to beat his home-run record was pitiful. As take-it-or-leave-it as I am about baseball, that’s just not cricket.
You wouldn’t see that sort of underhanded behavior in soccer, which, thankfully, remains the last bastion of fair play in an increasingly corrupt sporting world.
Another beer, Heidi.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5