Tag Archives: football

business travel, baboons and the world cup final

being massaged by a chair is a good way to prepare for a long flight, it turns out

welcome to my watchpeoplejump world cup final special, in which you will find out a lot less about the atmosphere in south africa before the world cup final than you want, and hear a lot more about the minutiae of business travel than you can have possibly desired.

starting with this – did you know that you can get a really rather good massage from a chair nowadays? thanks to the chairs in the swiss air business lounge, i prepared for my 15 hour flight with a thoroughly relaxed spine.

this is great as well, because the one problem with massage is the moment of personal awkwardness. i think it is time to design a machine that takes away that terrible moment when i have to try to describe my ideal salad to the very impatient salad tossers of new york.

anyway…i am generally an advocate of avoiding paying the 1000% premium attached to business class travel. but you can’t argue with the legroom.


however, all of this lovely legroom, and indeed the ability to turn a chair into a bed, is pretty useless if you can’t sleep. and unfortunately i ended up sitting next to a rather corpulent software engineer who whilst a lovely man in many respects had the most irritating snore in the world. it wasn’t just that it was loud, it was also highly unrhythmical, preventing me from convincing myself that it was as soothing as the roar of the ocean waves, for example.

from there to a series of minibus journeys. unremarkable apart from the fact that throughout i was sitting immediately behind CAMEROON LEGEND ROGER MILLA!!!! i know I am going to be accused of this not being real, but it is. but i’m english and i can’t bring myself to take photos of celebrities. so here is a photo i took of the south african landscape whilst sitting next to roger milla.

this photo was taken when i was literally one foot away from cameroon legend roger milla, but i couldn't bring myself to take a photo of him...

and here is roger milla if you don’t know who he is, doing what he is most famous for. most of the time he was with me, he was conducting telephone interviews with british newspapers. if you want to know anything about roger milla’s opinion about anything trivial relating to football, you know where to come.

since that point, i have been mainly in sun city, truly one of the strangest places in the world. it looks like it should have been built in the victorian era, and probably in india – until you get close up to the statues and pillars and realise that they are mainly plastic mouldings, and therefore could not have been built any time other than the 1970s.

sun city. much odder than this photo makes it look.

when you walk around the gardens of sun city, you wonder whether you should. there are many many signs gently discouraging you from doing so, or at least warning you to be on your guard. this is not because of the aviary, or the waterfalls, or the pvc elephants, or even the segway safari. it is because of the baboons. i haven’t seen one yet. but my co-traveller ivan claims they ripped his door off the hinges, ate all of his chocolate, and then put on his pyjamas and went to sleep (ok i made the last one up)

this is a very athletic pose to strike to feed a monkey, in my opinion

just when you thought it was safe to go in the garden

anyway, that’s nearly it for now. next time maybe i will tell you something about football, i kind of doubt it. one final note – sun city has been described as the las vegas of africa. i haven’t been to vegas, but i assume it isn’t that much like southend on sea. sun city is very like southend on sea.

and roulette is a stupid, stupid game. this guy was great though. i think he was gambling on almost every number every time. a perfect microcosm of futility. the house always wins.

no, no, i've got a system...

thanks, and as i say, next time i might tell you something about football. no promises though.



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how we can help sepp blatter

for the benefit of anyone who has somehow been able to avoid the world cup, perhaps by trekking through mongolia, or being an american basketball/baseball fan, the biggest talking point in the world right now, but particularly in england and mexico, is the use of technology to aid crucial refereeing decisions in football matches.

in particular, the english are up in arms having had victory/slightly less bad humiliation taken away from them by the failure of a linesman to see a ball bounce a yard and a half over the goal line.

in any other professional sport, this would have been resolved years ago. but football is run by fifa. and fifa is run by sepp blatter.

sepp blatter - he can't hear you

i am sure there are people in the world who love mr blatter dearly. football fans tend not to be among them. his three main hobbies appear to be 1) needlessly tinkering with the rules of the best game on earth 2) being more interested in corporate hospitality than the challenges of sexual health in south africa and 3) rejecting calls for the use of technology to aid referees.

every now and again he takes a day off and does something that is just utterly crazy. like telling women to play football in bikinis (see below)


there is one thing that sepp blatter said recently that struck a slight chord with me – that one of the reasons he doesn’t personally believe in the use of technology is because he doesn’t want the game at the highest level to be significantly different from how it is at every other level. which, as a principle, i think is a good one.

(though, as an aside, sepp clearly doesn’t extend ‘all levels of the game’ as low as anything i have ever played. i can count on the fingers of one hand the number of games i have played with linesmen.)

anyway, at the top level, the problem has been solved. this is what the ball would probably look like. (though why a vaguely intelligent person with a telly couldn’t do the job is questionable.)

however if you take the ‘intelligent ball’ principle, ie assume the availability of a ball with a chip in it, would it not be possible to monitor its position with a simple mobile application, that detects how far the ball has travelled? and given the incredible spread of the smart phone, could this not be a practical reality all over the world pretty quickly?

then we can stop having to listen to sepp mumbling why this isn’t possible, when it clearly is.

allowing him to focus his time on trying to institute a fancy dress football tournament for the over 60s, or whatever delicious madness awaits us next.

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a big screen in a pub – the technological mountaintop for watching the football?

so ITV, with classic elegance and grace, managed to steal away the one moment of joy in a dismal World Cup viewing experience from those with the perseverance and faith to watch its HD service. Instead of seeing Gerrard slide the ball coolly into the USA net, they instead saw a bizarre sequence involving some Hyundais, a footpump and some fruit-related littering. poor sods.

obviously, this being a period of history when we collectively thirst for new ways to experience audiovisual entertainment, there are a lot of different ways to watch this World Cup. you can watch it online in splitscreen and inflict your half-baked analysis of Carragher’s speed on the turn on a wider public than would be able to hear you otherwise. you can go to the cinema and watch it in 3D (which if it takes off surely creates some kind of role for James Cameron as a football manager?)  I haven’t found it yet, but I’m sure out there somewhere someone is creating a sound-canceling technology that can remove the buzz of vuvezelas from the sounds feed. (Please.)

ludicrous as it sounds, I am going to leap in there and claim that there is no technology that could make the football watching experience better than a really big screen, with a decent sound system, in a decent pub. the picture quality could improve slightly, for sure. there could be better ways to order your drinks, for sure (there is nothing worse than waiting in a queue at the bar, facing away from the screen, as you queue for a round of drinks you will hardly be able to carry.) it could be easier to make sure all the people you want to meet end up in the same pub (and when a quorum of my friends have begun to get their heads around location-based technology, this may happen.)

but for the moment, a big screen and a pub is as good as it gets. because watching the football isn’t about watching the football. it is about getting the chance to stand in an empowering group of people, shouting and roaring in public, totally immersed in a drama that doesn’t matter but is nonetheless all consuming. and a set of goggles, or the perfect living room set up, or the need to interact and comment, can only get in the way of an experience which is already fulfllling in a totally unique way.

come on England.


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