What a world

The 21st World Cup is underway and I’m not missing a kick, glued to the television surrounded by wall charts, sticker albums and in-depth guides and only taking hurried breaks for food and power naps during half-time and in the brief intervals between matches. I’m exhausted already!

This four-yearly carnival of football is the sole remaining reason I possess a TV, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy with the coverage from either the BBC or ITV. Both are awful as always, not due to the superb pictures provided by FIFA and Russian TV but because of the reliably ghastly rosters of presenters, commentators, analysers, pundits and interviewers the trashy Brit broadcasters insist on inflicting upon us. I know I could mute the sound, but that would mean losing the electric atmosphere and cacophonous noise that is integral to the World Cup experience, so I am forced to endure the glib, unenlightening clichés of a narrow cross-section of the excruciatingly inarticulate.

Now that John Motson has hung up his sheepskin coat and retired his squawking oohs and aahs, all the match commentators are indistinguishable clones impossible to tell apart, with precisely the same grating Estuary English accent, pompous portentousness and formulaic journalese syntax as each other. The introduction of a token woman commentator by the BBC is merely a patronising quota-filling gesture designed to give the false impression that it isn’t really a deeply sexist and genderist organisation, rendered pointless by her pale impersonations of the men’s deathless prosaicness and worn-out tropes. Meanwhile, the pundit companions in the commentary box, with their totally inappropriate tones of world-weary ennui, their I-told-you-so smugness, and their relentless determination to abolish the adverb as a part of speech, seem to be there just to infuriate. Yes, I’m talking about people like Phil Neville, Iain Dowie, Mark Lawrenson, Lee Dixon, Phil Neville, Danny Murphy, Kevin Kilbane, Phil Neville, Martin Keown and Phil Neville.

Then there are the ‘expert’ panels back in the studio. Fortunately I don’t have to listen to any of their banal bromides and wanky witterings, since I use that time to put the kettle on and fill the crack-pipe, but the snatches I’ve caught have had me screaming at the telly. Can anybody inform me why, for instance, Matthew Upson and Patrice Evra have ever been hooked up to a microphone? And don’t, whatever you do, get me started on Martin O’Neill…

By the way, I exclude Ryan Giggs from this lambasting because he’s the Wales manager and therefore beyond criticism. Likewise I forgive commentator Jonathan Pearce everything because many years ago he quoted my honeyed words at length when commentating on Manchester City v Llansantffraid (today’s The New Saints) on Radio 5 Live. You see, I don’t do “impartial” (there’s no such thing).

As the group stages reach their climax, I’ll conclude with an exceedingly partial and rather unamusing assessment of the 32 countries competing in Russia:

Russia – Put in
Saudi Arabia – Shaken
Egypt – Slow-mo
Uruguay – Lacking bite

Portugal – Do run Ron
Spain – Sticki-stucki
Morocco – Like Webster’s dictionary
Iran – Overran

France – Je ne sais quoi
Australia – Notgotaclues
Peru – Poo-poo
Denmark – Geld Dane

Argentina – Messy
Iceland – I scream
Croatia – Check out
Nigeria – The eagle has grounded

Brazil – Nuts
Switzerland – Call Dignitas
Costa RIca – Forest Green pushovers
Serbia – Itches

Germany – Inefficient
Mexico – Montezuma’s revenge
Sweden – Mashed
South Korea – Gone north

Belgium – Sprouting
Panama – A palindrome in waiting
Tunisia – Out of tune
England – Kane ain’t able

Poland – Polished off
Senegal – Some gall
Colombia – Things go better with coke
Japan – For W(h)ales’ sake!