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Sunday, 23 June, 2002, 17:44 GMT 18:44 UK

Funny Old World Cup

By John May
BBC Sport Online

This World Cup has a lot to answer for.

Like rock 'n' roll and Elvis Presley in the 1950s, it has gripped the normally staid and soberly-behaved youth of a nation and turned them into wild-eyed hellions, hell-bent on mayhem.

Take the Korean football team, for a shocking example.

All booted and suited, they attended a reception following their quarter-final win over Spain.

Unfortunately, their high spirits got the better of them, and they turned a refined social event into a bacchanalian orgy of excess.

They converted the reception into a bunfight by demolishing a cake and throwing it at each other.

As a wild, orgiastic means of letting their hair down, it is not quite up there with Led Zeppelin throwing televisions out of hotel windows, or England's infamous visit to the Dentist's Chair in Hong Kong.

But hey, this is Korea where you are considered a bit of a dangerous non-conformist rebel if you leave the top button of your shirt undone.

It is not known whether any action will be taken against the players, for example whether they will be held in custard-y until sundae.

But the Korean fondant fancy-flingers, battenburg bungers and swiss-roll slingers should perhaps take a warning from history.

They patently ignored the advice of Marie Antoinette who famously said: "Let them eat cake."

And look what happened to her...


While on the subject of matters cake-ish, news that the World Cup has been inundated by a different type of sponge.

If players felt themselves under a particularly intense gaze, it is hardly surprising as they were outnumbered by media men by almost five to one.

Some 3,600 reporters and photographers are covering the event, compared to a relatively slim 736 players actually taking part in it.

That works out at approximately ten eyes trained on each player, so it is little wonder if they feel as if somebody is watching them.

Of the planet's 235 independent states, 93 have sent representatives.

Among those countries with no media presence is the West African state of Benin.

But they have sent a referee, who should at least escape a hammering in the press back home.


In the words of the old Ian Dury song, Reasons to be Cheerful; one, two, three.

The Times newspaper has unearthed reasons why England's World Cup exit is not all bad news.

One: Due to his howler against Brazil, David Seaman's haircut is unlikely to become the must-have 'do.

Two: Prime Minster Tony Blair will not now need to attend the World Cup final. This, according to The Times, will stop him: "grinning like he won the World Cup all on his own."

Three: For the sake of European unity, England now has something in common with France.

Like the French, England failed to win the trophy and came home early.


Meanwhile, across The Channel, the French were thanking their lucky etoiles for the World Cup, even if their involvement would have been missed by anyone nipping out to make un tasse du the.

With the sort of insight only a finely-tuned, razor-sharp brain could produce, former French parliamentary president Phillipe Seguin has decided that politics is deadly dull compared with football.

"Like nine out of ten French people the World Cup has clearly been more interesting than the legislative elections," Seguin told the Journal du Dimanche.

Seguin, though, offered no hint as to whether the parliamentary elections result mirrored France's failure to defend their 1998 title.

Too heavily weighted to the right, a weak left, and nothing up the centre.

And so is the French parliament.


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