Missing Mummy

Jamie is away at a school camp all this week. After only two days I heard Tinkerbell singing, "I hope my Mummy comes back Friday because I miss her everyday."

The Case of the Missing Wheat Wrap

I've been making my own lunches at work for quite a while. For most of this year, I've been using wheat wraps. I typically buy them in packs of eight and use two a day. A while back I came to make my lunch and there was only one wrap left. I figured I must have made a mistake somewhere, but made a mental note to keep an eye out.

Well today it happened again. There's only one wrap left. And I know I've used exactly six. And the pack definitely says eight. I can tolerate a bit of "contents may settle" but this is a rip-off.

Four Dads

I arrived to drop off L at pre-school this morning at a reasonably busy time and there were three other cars there. And they were all being driven by the Dads. And no-one was rushing through the morning drop-off routine. Good to see.

The Oven Door

Our oven door has had a long standing problem, it doesn't shut properly. This means extra noise in the kitchen when the oven is on and heat leaking out. So I finally got around to trying to fix it. And rather remarkably, after lots of jiggling, disassembly and reassembly I fixed it. The door now shuts properly, if a little stiffly. The reduced noise is very noticeable. And all I needed was a screw-driver. Over 40? Pah!


Someone asked me at work today if I was over 40. Harsh. Very harsh. I'm barely eligible for Over 35's football (sniff).

Germany 2006

Let's look back at the eighteenth World Cup, held in Germany in 2006 and won by Italy - their fourth win. Once again (see 1982) a Serie A match-fixing scandal at home unified the Italian team and delivered victory.

In 2002, Cameroon wore sleeveless shirts at the African Cup of Nations. FIFA responded by forbidding the wearing of vests at the 2002 World Cup Finals, so Cameroon added some odd-looking temporary sleeves. Cameroon went further in 2004, again at the African Cup of Nations, turning out in a one-piece Lyrca outfit, in which shirts and shorts formed a single garment. FIFA pointed to Law 4: shirts and shorts is the sole acceptable attire.

After much argument, Cameroon were permitted to wear the outfits in the group stages, but not the quarter-finals of the Cup of Nations. Cameroon wore them in the QF anyway and created huge headlines (despite losing the game). FIFA decided it was time to bring them to heel. On April 16, they fined Cameroon $154,000 and deducted six points from their World Cup qualifying campaign. With only 30 points on offer in their qualifying group, this was heavy punishment.

Cameroon appealed. FIFA denied the appeal. Cameroon brought in German lawyers and threatened to go all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and sue FIFA for substantial damages. The Confederation of African Football sent in a petition of support signed by all 52 African countries. On May 21, 2004, FIFA bottled it and caved. Cameroon got their six points back. Sepp Blatter said, "Do not see this as a U-turn. It is merely a pardon."

On September 4, 2004, England drew 2-2 with Austria after a calamitous error by David James in goal. The British press got stuck in as usual. The Sun actually went and found a donkey and filmed it, after many takes, making the equivalent save that James failed to make. The donkey, named Mavis, became famous. The Sun then held a phone poll asking readers to vote on who should be goalkeeper for England's next match, Mavis or David James. 95% of Sun readers voted for Mavis. James was dropped.

Australia qualified for the finals for the second time. Both our qualifications coincide with the hosting of the Finals in Germany (strictly West Germany in 1974). Let's hope this is not the start of a pattern. Of the seven World Cup winners, six qualified for the Finals in 2006. The country that didn't, Uruguay, was eliminated by Australia. :)

Sweden failed to win their first group game at the Finals again. Despite regular appearances at the Finals, they haven't managed to win their first game since 1958 the year they hosted the finals.

Australia's Ray Richards played illegally at the Finals in 1974. He was the only player to do so until Josip Simunic achieved the feat playing for Croatia against Australia. Incredibly Simunic achieved the feat in a crucial game in the full glare of the modern media spotlight, not in a dead rubber back in the 1970s. The referee, Graham Poll of England, failed to realise that Simunic's second yellow was indeed his second, assumed it was his first and let Simunic remain on the field. This time the fourth official missed it and Simunic topped Richards by staying on until the final whistle, although there was less time to go in Simunic's case. A clear pattern has emerged too: Australia's third and final round one (or group stage) game at the Finals shall feature an illegal player.

Simunic went further though. Following the final whistle he remonstrated with Poll and received a third yellow card and was sent off. So while Simunic is now one of two illegal players, he is the only player ever to receive three yellow cards in a finals match, a record all his own.

In typical FIFA fashion the official match record shows only two yellow cards awarded to Simunic. The second card has been removed from the record. Poll announced his retirement from international refereeing shortly after the match.

Italy defeated Australia 1-0 in the round of 16 (bastards). The game was decided by a penalty in the last minute. There was no time to restart afterwards. Other than games decided by a penalty shoot-out or a golden goal, this is the only Finals game decided by the last kick of the match.

Australia's progress at the Finals attracted a lot of positive attention. Many reports naturally compared our performance very favourably to our efforts in 1974. Incredibly though, articles on FIFA's official website, on at least three separate occasions, referred to Australia not managing a single point in 1974. This is of course incorrect.

The French captain, Zinedine Zidane, was sent off in the Final. Again a pattern is emerging. Following Marcel Desailly's sending off in the 1998 Final, all French captains competing in a Final must arrange for themselves to be sent off. Clearly Zidane was running out of time and getting desperate. Hence the headbutt option. And even then the referee missed it.

Italy's win marked a further step in yet another pattern. Italy lost the Final in 1970. Twelve years later in 1982, following a match fixing scandal at home, they won. A further twelve years later in 1994 they lost the Final. And a further twelve years later in 2006, again following a match fixing scandal at home, they won.

The Christmas Invasion

I'm not happy about having to wait until July to see the Christmas special, but it was worth the wait, just. David Tennant looks promising and we see the continuing mix of action and its impact, eg. The Doctor is wondering what sort of man he is, while Rose is freaked out about the whole regeneration thing.

Rose and the Doctor return to Earth, with the Doctor promptly fainting upon exiting the TARDIS. Jackie and Mickey wonder who he is. They take the Doctor to Jackie's flat where he rests. He emits some golden light from his mouth and it floats off.

Japan / Korea 2002

Let's look back at the seventeenth World Cup, held in Japan and South Korea in 2002 and won by Brazil - their fifth win. This is the only time the Finals have been jointly hosted.

With 195 teams attempting to qualify, the qualification tournament was extraordinarily complex. For example, both Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago played 22 games and both still failed to qualify. With every game crucial, FIFA's choice of referee was important. The referee must be absolutely neutral. The game between South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho was one such crucial game. FIFA went all out to find a neutral referee. Eventually they settled on Boxen Chinagu of Zambia. You can imagine FIFA's dismay and embarrassment when Zambian officials informed them that Chinagu was dead. And had been for six months.

The World Cup qualifiers for 2002 produced some very high-scoring games. New Zealand defeated Fiji 13-0 in August of 1983. This was the record score for a World Cup game and it stood for a long time. Until November 24, 2000, when Iran defeated Guam 19-0. Less than six months later Australia defeated Tonga 22-0 to set a new record, not just for World Cup games, but for all full internationals. But the Aussies weren't done yet. Two days later they defeated American Samoa 31-0.

The goals times were 10, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32, 33, 37, 42, 45, 50, 51, 55, 56, 58, 60, 65, 66, 78, 80, 81, 84, 85, 88 and 89. Archie Thompson finished with 13 goals beating the previous records for goals in a game of 7 for a World Cup game and 10 for a full international.

When Madagascar played Tunisia on May 5, 2001 the Madagascan starting 11 players all had surnames beginning with the letter 'R'. What's more all three substitutes used on the day did too. And so did their coach. Somewhat ironically they referred to themselves as Club M.

England's FA advised the travelling Barmy Army to try an "make an effort" to show some courtesy and sensitivity towards the culture of Japan and Korea. Good luck you may say. But one guy made a genuine effort. He went to a T-Shirt shop in Japan and asked for the words "England on Tour - I Love Japan" to be translated into Japanese and put on a shirt. No-one is sure if the message was lost in translation or the printer was having a laugh, but what he ended up with was "Gay submissive Englishman seeks muscular Japanese boy". None the wiser he wore it to England's first game against Sweden.

Croatia vs Australia

Our greatest ever result, but the nature of the game and the refereeing meant it was almost impossible to enjoy.

France 1998

Let's look back at the sixteenth World Cup, held in France in 1998 and won by France - their first win. France remain the latest country to win it for the first time.

In 1966, England won and Germany were runners-up. At the final whistle the scorer of the first goal in the final, Helmut Haller, picked up the ball and kept it. No big deal, no-one gave a second thought in those days to football memorabilia and its potential value. Haller gave the ball to his son for his fifth birthday. Over 20 years it was signed by Pele, Eusebio and other greats, but ended up languishing in Haller's cellar.

When England won the right to host the 1996 European Championships the magazine Total Football suggested the 1966 ball should 'come home'. This kicked of a massive campaign. The Sun and the Mirror battled it out for the scoop of getting the ball back. The bemused Hallers said they'd listen to offers. Eventually the Mirror, Eurostar and Richard Branson clinched a deal worth 70,000 pounds to Haller. After much subterfuge the Mirror got the money shot of Haller returning the ball to Geoff Hurst after smuggling Haller into the country. Miffed, the Sun demanded the Hallers give the money to charity, which the did - allegedly. The ball now resides at the National Football Museum at Preston North End's Deepdale ground. Sadly the precious autographs have faded because Richard Branson exposed the ball to full sunlight during the handover.

Scotland met Estonia in Estonia during the qualifying stages in a match set down for a 6:45pm kick-off. The Estonians rented floodlights from Finland. Scotland complained the lights were much shorter than normal and would dazzle the players. FIFA concurred and issued a directive at 9:00am on match day moving the kick-off forward to 3:00pm to avoid the need for lights. The Scottish fans were duly informed and arrived for the early kick-off along with their team and the referees. The Estonians failed to show. The referee awarded the match to Scotland as a forfeit. The Scottish fans were delighted.

The Estonians however had never officially accepted the new kick-off time. They were also concerned about being unable to provide security at such short notice and their fans being at work at kick-off time. So at 5:00pm the Estonian team duly arrived in their team bus along with their fans for a 6:45pm kick-off. They made their point by standing around, arms folded, waiting impatiently for Scotland to turn up.

FIFA now had a dilemma. Acting with their renowned speed and efficiency they came to a decision a month later. They decided the tie should be replayed on a neutral ground. Effectively, Scotland failed to win despite the opposition failing to turn up. The Scots eventually acceded to FIFA despite feeling they were being punished for something that was not their fault. The two sides finally did meet in Monaco a further three months later. Naturally Scotland were dire and were booed off their pitch by their fans in a 0-0 draw. Fortunately for FIFA they were spared a major backlash as Scotland eventually managed to qualify regardless.

The Maldives attempted to qualify for the first time. Given that 99.6 of the islands are officially classed as water and many children hone their football skills with a coconut, little was expected. Little was delivered as the Maldives lost all six of their qualifiers a compiled the worst ever for-and-against record of 0-59.

Princess Diana died from injuries sustained in a car-crash on August 31, 1997. The day of the funeral, Saturday September 6, was declared a national day of mourning by Prime Minister Tony Blair. All Premier League games were cancelled (along with race meetings and so on). Business closed until after the funeral, re-opening at 2:00pm. The Scottish FA however, decided it should be business as usual and that its World Cup qualifier against Belarus should go ahead. FIFA had been consulted and concurred provided the usual marks of respect (black arm bands, a minute's silence, etc) were observed. Eventually after a huge hullabaloo in the English Press the game was moved back a day to the Sunday, despite the observation that you could shop, visit themes parks, buy a Big Mac or purchase a lottery ticket, but not watch, play in or bet on a football match. Scotland won the rescheduled match 4-1.

After England's first match at the finals, an unremarkable 2-0 victory over Tunisia in Marseille, Glenn Hoddle and Alan Shearer were interviewed for TV. Curiously Hoddle was shown in full while Shearer's replies came from off camera. Turns out the producer had spotted the large Marseille sign behind Shearer. Shearer's head blocked the 'M' and the 'ille' was out of shot.

Hair-cuts featured a lot at WC 1998. There was Beckham's mohawk, Seaman's ponytail and Valderama's 'fro. Nigeria's Taribo West went for green pigtails and was rebuked by Nigeria's culture minister as promoting homosexuality for his trouble. Romania went all out though. The entire team went peroxide blond for their final group game (making life very difficult for commentators). Their goal keeper was unable to join in as he was bald and their coach shaved his head in moral support. Romania lost 0-1 and went home.


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