Thursday, May 20, 2010

World cup fever starts here

Not long to go now. From the moment that the very first driver clipped the very first cross of Saint George flag to the roof of their car, there has been no escaping it.

Yes folks, it's the World Cup. Or to give it its full name, the 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaTM .

It starts on June 11, little more than three weeks away.

And if all goes to plan England will lift the gleaming golden trophy out of its official Louis Vuitton travelling bag a month later on July 11.

How can we be so sure? Well, two city types at JP Morgan bank have done a bit of quantitative risk analysis and come to the conclusion that the fixture schedule gives England their best chance of a win since 1966. And seeing what a great job city analysts have done on the economy over the last couple of years, who could possibly disagree with their predictions?

1966, though. The year when football stayed at home. The year when some chancer nicked the Jules Rimet trophy and left it in a South London hedge, where it was found by Pickles the wonder-dog. (Who, for trivia fans, met his end soon afterwards, choking on his lead while chasing a cat. A true hero.)

1966, the year of World Cup Willie, the first and cheekiest World Cup mascot. The year when the merchandising really got going.

Four years later, the contest moved to Mexico. In those days people could still afford petrol, and Esso cashed in on cup fever by producing a collection of 30 coins depicting the members of the England squad and crafted of the finest aluminium.

Woe betide any 1970 parent who went to a Shell garage to get their petrol. Small boys in those days had no interest in collecting tokens for glass tumblers. They had a brace of Alan Mullerys, five Gordon Bankses, three Martin Peters and no Bobby Moore OBE, and Esso was the only place they could complete their collection. Except in the murky waters of the school swapsies market, which was already flooded with those Captain Scarlet bubble gum cards that you could arrange into a giant jigsaw.

Such was the rare quality of the Esso coins that a complete set of 30 now sells on ebay for at least £6.50. What a return on your dad's original investment in petrol: not even enough to put a tenth of a tiger in your tank.

Still, there's one thing to be grateful for. At least the powers that be at FIFA have scheduled England's fixtures to avoid any clash with the Weston Village Open Gardens day on Sunday, June 13.

Our first-round tussle with the USA is just one day before that, and it would have been a pretty bad show if all Mrs D's horticultural efforts over the last months had come to nought because everyone was at home or in the pub watching England's glory boys on their first step to international triumph. There is justice in the world after all.

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