| Tavita |
ON BEHALF of all us football watchers, here’s a passionate plea to all producers, editors and presenters.
All we want to watch during our precious sofatime moments are football players playing football.
We’ve had enough of managers pushing and poking each other, especially Portuguese and French ones.
Take last weekend.
Top feature was a multi-millionaire French manager of an Americo-Iranian-Uzbek-owned outfit of Hispano-Franco- Germanic-Anglo-Polo-Chileans pushing a multi-millionaire Portuguese manager of a Russian-owned Serbo- Belgian-Anglo-Spanic-Brazilian club….in some league or other that goes by the name of “English”!
On my left….
Grey-haired old French Manager (striding down sideline with savagely glaring eyebrows and viciously clenched lips on top of bright red tie popping out fresh white collar between flapping lapels of seriously buttoned black suit):
“Hors de ma route, Iberian locust!”
On my right….
Neatly parted and silvery-combed less old Portuguese Manager (poking authoritative lisbonic right index finger out of top-of-the-range right blue cuff between vigorously parted panels of seriously expensive midnight blue suiting in general direction of large French nose sniffing angrily in front):
“Comporte se, Gallic gecko!”
“Push!” went the gecko.
“Poke!” went the locust.
It made all the front pages.
And the result of the actual game?
See page 27….or 48…. or 73!
In brief, what we ask for are heaps of encounters between old-fashioned groups of players, traditionally known as “teams”….
…. not pushing and poking managers.
So, we are delighted that, this weekend, our plea could be answered.
Round Two of Euro 2016 is on. Actual games, played by actual teams.
Hardly any of us watchers know who their managers are and even less of us less care.
This has to be mentioned unfortunately since it’s a UEFA competition and therefore astoundingly tricky to find on an average passing channel.
So here goes, and I promise it will take even less time than it takes Arsene to push or José to poke.
Officially billed as “Matchday Two”, October 9-11, will be the second round of more than a year’s qualifying matches leading up to the big 2016 event hosted by France.
There are nine groups. The top two teams from each group will qualify automatically. The best third placed team will also make the finals with the other third placed teams facing a play-off to determine the full complement of 23 qualifiers joining France at the finals.
After one round, the leading two in each group look like this:
Group A: Iceland & Czech Republic
Group B: Cyprus & Wales
Group C: Spain & Slovakia
Group D: Poland & Germany
Group E: England & Lithuania
Group F: Finland and Romania
Group G: Russia & Montenegro
Group H: Italy & Croatia
Group I: Albania & Denmark
The best third placed team at the moment is Estonia and the top three third place getters heading for the final are Northern Ireland, Bulgaria and Ireland.
So much for the build-up. Now for a weekend of what we’re all waiting for.
Football between living teams of players with something in life in common.
So, what are the big line-ups in Round Two?
Poland vs. Germany?
Sweden vs. Russia?
Great encounters of the outstanding kind, certainly. But, for me, there’s one team that stands above all the others. It offers intrigue, fascination and unpredictability.
And, if we can ever find a channel bothering to put it on, it will eliminate any managers pushing and poking each other on the touchline with the football as background wallpaper.
They’re playing Denmark.
Now, I’ve got nothing whatsoever against Denmark. In fact, there’s nothing I find more relaxing during half-time punditry, that popping off to the fridge for a tasty slab of Danish.
But, to real football watchers, this weekend’s all about Albania.
For ancient watchers like me and my mates, it’s a distant non-memory of some place over there that belonged to no one and was a pain in the neck to all sides in qualifying rounds of Cold War One.
From the little information we had, it appeared that it was a country that had been totally taken over by managers pushing and poking each other along the sideline and refusing to listen to any fourth official who tried to get them to play the game.
Of late, however, that’s all changed. It means that us watchers who once knew nothing whatsoever about Albania, are now big supporters of the Red and Blacks or The Eagles or whatever they want to call themselves.
They offer hope for the football we want.
In Round One, they managed to beat Portugal and, in 2016, they could even manage France.
Pushing off all things Portuguese….poking away at anything French?
“What shall we do?”
“Leave them alone. They’re managing!”