MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Lining up to taint image of beautiful game

The World Cup looms in the distance . . . like a vast cloud about to blot out the sun, putting us in mind of Pompeii long ago, writes Michael Moynihan.

Sorry if that sounds unduly negative. There are aspects of the global fintech-exposition that I quite like.

Take the resurrection every four years of all sorts of codgers to relive their long-ago feats and achievements.

My favourites are the lads who played for Brazil in 1970, a tournament of such surpassing brilliance that even human beings not alive at the time it occurred can bore for Ireland about it. The likes of Tostao and Rivelino are trotted out to cloak the exercise in some kind of humanity.

Sadly, the rolling of the years means that when I started watching the World Cup in earnest, over 30 years ago, these men were recognisable athletes: a stone overweight, maybe, moustaches thinning, but largely unencumbered by glasses, for instance.

The kind of wiry chap you’d be wary of if he invited you to join in with a beach kick-around on holiday, suspecting that any moment he might send that child’s football bending inside the far jumper-goalpost. In the case of Rivelino you’d be right.

Nowadays it’s not as edifying. Tostao popped up the other night in the far reaches of the History Channel, and he looked like he should be teaching potions at Hogwart’s. He manfully explained how it was he who skipped down the left wing against England in 1970 before curling the ball over for the winning goal. I had to salute his ability to sound even remotely interested in his own story, given that he is almost 50 years taking audiences through his feint and swivel.

I felt sad for the likes of him and Jairzinho, who are now spending their golden years being reminded on a pretty regular basis how fit and strong they used to be.

It struck me in the moment as being insensitive, not to mention hackneyed, to drag them through that palaver all over again, but for all I know they may enjoy it.

What I doubt anyone could enjoy was Mastercard’s announcement last week that it would pay for 10,000 meals for hungry children in Latin and South America for every goal scored by Lionel Messi and Neymar in the World Cup.

When you released yourself, somehow, from the corkscrew-shaped twist of initial embarrassment sparked by reading this, the residual embarrassment made you break out in a cold sweat.

It’ll certainly add a frisson if one of the two gents in question gets a nick on a shot heading goalwards, leading to questions as to who gets credit for a score; that should cheer the starving kids up no end, to think that a FIFA functionary, of all carbon-based lifeforms on the planet, has the power to decide whether they’ll eat or not.

That kind of idle speculation doesn’t do justice to the true horror involved here, where a multinational company which made record profits last year decides which children will eat and which will not.

A company which exceeded expectations earlier this year with net revenue of $3.31 billion could easily pay for those meals anyway, but why bother when you can get your advertising budget to work twice for you?

At the time of writing there was no word from Messi or Neymar, though perhaps it’s unfair to expect them to have an opinion on something that doesn’t involve a football.

A charitable view would be that they’re just the useful idiots in this scenario.

The real opprobrium belongs to Mastercard, whose corporate motto is A World Beyond Cash. Maybe A World Beyond Class would fit better.

It’s good to talk, even for inter-county players

Thanks to the reader who texted during the week expressing dissatisfaction with a rugby player’s transfer from one province to the other leading our sports coverage.

The point was made, quite reasonably, that high summer is GAA season, so why weren’t we leading with hurling or Gaelic football?


The answer: most of the counties involved in the championships are in lockdown, official or not, the week of big games. Access to players is limited at best and non-existent in most cases.

There’s a lot of easy criticism of media outlets — not in this particular case — for going for ‘easy’ coverage of sports like soccer or rugby, but that’s a point to be taken up with intercounty managers all over Ireland. They’re the ones stopping their players — the best salesmen for the sport — from talking.

Perfect marriage of art and sports

I had no idea until last week who Massimo Furlan is, so kudos, first of all, to Donald Mahoney of The Economist.

Mahoney’s blog for the magazine drew my attention because it referred to a re-enactment of ... the 1974 World Cup clash of East Germany and West Germany. A re-enactment at the original location, the Olympic Stadium in Munich, featuring just two participants. Furlan, a Swiss artist, played West German ’keeper Sepp Maier, while Jurgen Sparwasser, the East German who scored the game’s only goal, was played by Fritz Beil, an actor. “Everyone else... along with the ball, would be imagined,” wrote Mahoney.

As soon as I saw there’d be an imaginary ball involved I was all the way in. Clearly my ignorance is an indictment of my unfamiliarity with modern art in all its forms — though I’m prepare to wager heavily on an absence of messages from my readers avowing their long-held fandom of Furlan — but if there’s a way to franchise out these reenactments I can’t see how it’ll lose. Imagine a recreation of your team’s biggest triumphs, no matter what the level, though I’m happy to run contrary to Massimo’s strict rules of verisimilitude.

For a licence and a small consideration I’m happy to allow you to reverse your side’s biggest disappointments — to revisit the occasion that broke your heart, but you’ll get to win this time, as John Rambo said to Colonel Trautman after he’d rescued the officer from some low-rent commie prison.

If you insist on following Massimo down the road of slavish copying, be prepared. Mahoney saw a streaker at the Olympic Stadium gig, and when Beil/Sparwasser went down injured, an ambulance came along and took him away, leaving Furlan on his own. “This is the magic of the performative moment,” was Furlan’s view of Beil’s disappearance.

Seriously. How did we not think of this years ago?

Like father, like son

David Sedaris is back with a new book, Calypso, and sight unseen I recommend it.

I’ve probably bored you all at some stage in the past with my high opinion of You Can’t Kill The Rooster, one of the funniest pieces of writing, all-time, I have ever read, about Sedaris’s brother Paul, AKA the Rooster.

Pressing Paul/the Rooster hard for the title of funniest Sedaris is their father.

Now in his nineties, Lou Sedaris remains the man who will take the antibiotics prescribed for his dog (“They’re all the same thing”).

When David tells him a woman at one of his book readings offered to cut out a small growth on his face, and did so, Lou’s response is characteristic: “Sounds like you saved yourself a lot of money.”


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