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JUNE 11, 2006
Castle Von Rant
Rantsburg

Hats and hacks.

Well the World Cup has started and everyone seems to be falling over themselves to talk about "the Carnival atmosphere".

Just what makes up a "carnival" atmosphere? It seems to be the arrival of funny hats. It seems almost compulsory when you have a World Cup ticket to also buy, or make some sort of hat which immediately halves your IQ or makes you a person of interest to the authorities.

Don’t get me wrong, I think they are hilarious. A soccer ball with flags stuck in it, funny. Half a watermelon, fashioned into a medieval helmet, very funny. A large court jesters hat in your national colours, very, very funny.

And I know the people sitting behind you who have just handed over six months wagers to a ticket scalper are just dying with laughter.

Who cares if you are an accountant who spends their life concerned with debits and credits sheets - plonk on a colorful hat and you are the life of the party.

How else do we know about the "carnival atmosphere"? Well all the journalists tell us about it.

The World Cup is one of the great journalistic junkets. In fact it is probably the great junket.

You know this because there are very few actual sporting journalists there. They were killed in the crush when other journos and media types who normally look down their noses at sport hear that a free trip is on offer.

And they turn up by the truck load. You get all the logistics people, who are there to ensure a journalist knows which bus to catch and has their ticket. Imagine your mum when you were five. Plus all the supervisors and managers just to make sure it all runs smoothly, although the only footballing fact they know is that Ronaldinho has teeth.

Those sports journos who did survive are normally back at base camp after being told there simply isn’t the budget to send them.

How do I know all this? Because I hire ex journos to sweep my streets.

You know it makes sense

The Baron

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JUNE 7, 2006
Castle Von Rant
Rantsburg

What is going on??!!

A lot of people are spending a lot of time focusing their attention on a handful of ankles, thighs and groins at present. There hasn’t been this much attention paid to medical conditions since the Seniors Olympics!

Wayne Rooney, Andriy Shevchenko, Harry Kewell, Franceso Totti, Xabi Alonso, Claudia Reyna, Rafael van der Vaart and Roque Santa Cruz are just some of the big names racing against the clock to be fit in time for kick-off in their respective World Cup campaigns. Are they just getting their excuses in early? Or is there something more to it?

The usual arguments have been trotted out regarding the world’s best players facing fatigue during the tournament after their long domestic seasons, which for many have included European fixtures. 

Greece stunned Europe when in 2004 they won the European Cup title with a team of relative unknowns. In the many post-mortems that occurred after that tournament the reason for the Greek victory boiled down to, amongst other things, their relative freshness when compared to the bigger names in European football.

England manager Sven Goran Eriksson was keen to see the English domestic tournament finish early this year, so as to give his players time to rest before the World Cup. That demand seemed to lead to even more congestion and the end of the season saw some teams playing three times a week to fulfill their commitments in the various competitions.

Calls for fewer games have been doing the rounds, but it can hardly be heard over the sound cash registers ringing up numbers for match tickets, team merchandise and pay TV dollars. 

The fact is players relaxing at home don’t sell soft drinks and satellite dishes. The respective football federations are reluctant to give the goose that laid the golden egg any time off the nest, pray the cash stops rolling in, and while fans continue to pile through the gates there seems to be a lack of people power behind the movement.

The players themselves have been keen to talk up the idea of fewer games (you know, more time to buy fur coats), but they aren’t as energetic about the notion of less pay.

Maybe footballers need to just toughen up? Australia’s Mark Viduka is considering quitting international football at the end of the World Cup because of the strain it places on his family. He told reporters “I have to travel to the other side of the world. It takes a week to recover.” Weeks? Hardly the sort of ringing endorsement for first class travel I’d expect from a sponsor sensitive footballer.

Could it be time to roll out the players who are happy to play, knackered knee or not and get on with the game?

You know it makes sense.

The Baron

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