Soccer | THE BALD TRUTH

Careful with that tree, Eugene!

by Alastair Himmer

After months of teetering on the brink of full-blown silliness, World Cup organizers finally appear to have plunged into a vortex occupied by Teletubbies, giant talking tadpoles and Benny Hill lookalikes.

How else do you explain the decision to ban frozen food from World Cup venues this summer?

Preventing fans from entering grounds with a Heinz microwave dinner (as all self-respecting fans are wont to do) must go down as the biggest spoilsport act in the history of World Cup organizing.

“Here, where do you think you are going with that fish finger?” is not a line I ever expected to hear from security officials.

In England it would be, “Is that a fish finger in your pocket or are you just excited about the match, sonny?” Not in Japan or South Korea, obviously.

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of JAWOC and KOWOC, ladies and gents. For your information, Japanese and South Korean organizers will also be confiscating confetti, quarantining animals and insisting you be nice to trees during the World Cup.

Apparently confused about what to ban from World Cup grounds this summer, organizers have basically decided to ban everything.

If it wasn’t for the issue of civil rights, no doubt organizers would demand fans watched World Cup games stark naked, such is their paranoia over security.

For those of you lucky enough to have World Cup tickets, and brave enough to want to actually use them, here are a few of the things JAWOC and KOWOC will ask you to surrender at the turnstiles:

Firearms, swords and knives

Hard to believe, I know, but you will need to hand in any guns (including pistols, AK-47s and, incredibly, pellet rifles) to the relevant authorities upon arrival. Wannabe ninjas can leave their swords at home too. Nail clippers are another no-no, apparently.

A reliable source has confirmed that flame-throwers, bazookas and other military hardware that could be “considered a hazard to other fans” will also be confiscated.

Poison and drugs

In another shock move, organizers are taking a tough line on poison, which is bad news for fans hoping to catch a few mice at halftime. Drug abuse, too, will simply not be tolerated inside World Cup stadiums. (What planet are these people on?)

“Pet” bottles

On the list of banned objects released by JAWOC and KOWOC, “PET” bottles came in at No. 5 (just below “smoke-emitting candles,” “explosives” and washing machines) out of 697.

Apparently, you may take your plastic bottle into the stadium if you remove the cap first. (Don’t ask!) While we are on the subject, why on earth must plastic bottles be called “PET” bottles here? Answers on a postcard, please.

Umbrellas

World Cup organizers are telling fans to leave their umbrellas at home, which seems half-baked when you consider that the tournament kicks off smack bang in the middle of the rainy season.

But don’t worry, say JAWOC and KOWOC, you can bring those small fold-up umbrellas that collapse inside-out every five minutes and work as well as a Korean phrasebook in Kabul.

Anoraks it is then. Imagine the collective body odor emitted by 50,000 heavily sweating fans in temperatures of 25-30 C. Mmm.

Confetti

For those of you thinking of getting married during a World Cup match (perhaps at halftime or when your team has just gone 3-0 down and had a man sent off), you can forget the confetti.

Think of the mess, say World Cup organizers. JAWOC security chief Takahisa Ishida even went as far as to say that confetti could “distract the players.” Honestly.

So none of the ticker tape welcomes or goal celebrations seen at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina or in Mexico in 1986 then. JAWOC evidently does not want weddings sprouting up willy-nilly in Rows C, K and W (so Moonies need not apply for tickets), even if the match is boring.

(Interestingly, though, nowhere does it say in the list that you can’t get married during World Cup games.)

Animals

A particular favorite of mine, this. While the World Cup is going to be tough for pet lovers, who will have check the family dachshund in upon entry, “exceptions will be made for guide dogs for the blind,” say JAWOC. Now I hate to point out the obvious …

Once I had stopped biting the carpet after reading “Article 3” on the JAWOC/KOWOC list, I discovered, to my unbridled joy, that there was an added bonus waiting.

“Article 4,” laying out the “Dos and Don’ts” for fans, had clearly been at the cooking sherry too. A brief sample:

Erection of tents, huts or similar structures

Quite what is meant by “similar structures,” given the building restrictions peculiar to finding oneself inside a stadium and under the gaze of 50,000 or so fellow World Cup fans, is neither here nor there. Planning permission, presumably, is out of the question.

Suffice it to say, if you were the type of person inclined to pitch a tent or construct a “hut” inside a World Cup stadium, then clearly you are at least one sandwich short of a picnic and security officials would like a word in your shell-like, pronto.

The lighting of fires

Don’t light them, JAWOC sensibly urges.

Destruction of standing trees

World Cup organizers prohibit the “destruction, damage, defacing or unauthorized use of standing trees” at World Cup venues.

Leaving aside the obvious scarcity of trees at World Cup stadiums (and the question of how you “use” a standing tree, unless you are a jack russell), does that mean we can kick the s**t out of any tree we find in a horizontal position?

This is all too much for me.

Tell you what. Help the World Cup organizers out. Just be nice to the trees. Standing or sitting.