Tuesday 22 April 2014

World Cup Red Card Cards

If I'm honest, I think I only watch the World Cup for the dismissals. International football's biggest tournament has a way of elevating everything it touches. There have been countless better goals than Diego Maradona's second against England, but the combination of place, time and significance means that it looks set to remain as THE goal. Likewise, there's no indisipline quite like World Cup indiscipline. People rightly argue that it is a shame that George Best or Ryan Giggs never got the opportunity to grace the World Cup stage, but I feel just as much of a sense of loss for Pat Van den Hauwe or Vinny Jones. Paul Scholes played at two World Cups, but I always got the impression that he never meant to be that bad at tackling. He was never a true artist in the same way as Julian Dicks or Vinny Samways.

To celebrate this finest of the fine football arts, in association with Twohundredpercent I have designed a range of 25 collectible World Cup Red Card Cards, available as greetings cards or postcards. Now other fans of ill-discipline can assemble their very own treasury of the most notable World Cup moments and relive their very favourite wild fouls and outrageous pieces of referee-deceiving fakery. It's sure to bring football into disrepute and the first batch off the shelf will be no doubt heading to FIFA headquarters and the office of Mr. J. Blatter.

FIFA, of course, are continually trying to clamp down on such foul play, potty mouth and various other monkeyshines. However, for the committed fan of the red card, these efforts are nothing but good news. Their chosen method to bring transgressors back into line is to encourage the referees to pop the cards out until they learn, as though they are misbehaving dogs. The only worry red card connoisseurs have is that one day they might, along similar lines, try to reverse the trend and instead reward players who toe the line. Referees taking to the field with a string of sausages or a pocket full of Haribo instead of a notebook and pencil remains my worst nightmare.

159 players have been dismissed in the nineteen World Cup Finals tournaments so far, to 157 different miscreants. Cameroon's Rigobert Song and France's kung-fu master Zinedine Zidane are the only repeat offenders, while Argentina's Leandro Cufré is the only player to be given his marching orders without having set foot on the field of play. 159 in 772 matches equates to a rather meek-looking 0.21 dismissals per match. However, it is a rather misleading statistic, because it is becoming far more prevalent. In the first nine World Cups, just 22 players were invited to leave the field early. In both 1950 and 1970, no-one was sent off at all. The latter of those tournaments was significant as it was also the first World Cup since yellow and red cards were introduced to international football and although the red card didn't make an appearance until four years later, it has since been shown 137 times.

This equates to a rate of 0.25 red cards per World Cup match, or one every four games. In the last three tournaments, this has risen to one every three. Since three games is the minimum number that any team who qualifies for the Finals can play, you are now statistically more likely to have a player sent off than not. If you go further than the group stage and still don't have any players dismissed, you're simply not trying. Days like 18th June 1998, where five players were sent off in a single round of group matches (Denmark v. South Africa and France v. Saudi Arabia) or 25th June 2006, the day of the second round match between the Netherlands and Portugal in which 16 players were booked and 4 sent off are starting to look less like aberrations and more like the norm.

All of which is great news for me, until you remember that whilst dismissals are trending unrelentingly upward, goals-per-game are falling fast. Just as fast as dismissals are rising, in fact, or moreso. At the current rate, by the 2142 World Cup at the very latest we can expect more red cards than goals in each and every World Cup game. I drew a graph and everything, so this is definitely going to happen.

I mentioned my rigorous researches on Twitter and Terry Duffelen, Fußball correspondent on Twohundredpercent and eminent football podcaster, remarked, "red card coefficients are the future of football", a thought which was the perfect combination of funny and bottom-clenchingly terrifying. Because if red cards are to become the game's new currency, we can expect teams going through elaborate simulation in order to prevent their opponents getting sent for an early bath. And while their own tackling would reach new heights of ferocious overkill, the players on the receiving end would react with such Gandhi-like equanimity and calmness that the referee won't know what to think. No-one would get sent off at all. Combine that with there being no goals either and every World Cup game would essentially be like watching Brighton and Hove Albion: you're slightly drunk, it's raining, nothing is happening on the pitch and you don't know where you're supposed to sit.

The only way to prevent this ludicrous situation from occurring is to send everybody off before the game has even started. This is something I'm sure we can all get behind.

It's not just Red Card Cards that are available via my Redbubble, there are loads of other cards, prints and items of clothing to be had. Or you can just go and look at the silly pictures: dotmund on Redbubble

Wednesday 16 April 2014

My mates were on the telly

My mates were on the telly last night. This shouldn't be exciting any more. It's 2014, for a start. Nowadays, anyone can be famous if they want to be, and entirely on their own terms. Beauty and lifestyle vloggers from YouTube are now so pulsatingly popular that a public appearance has been known to bring Covent Garden to a standstill. Being on the telly shouldn't still be such a big deal.

My mates, who were on the telly last night

Another reason why my mates being on the telly shouldn't excite me any more is because it's 2014 and this means that I should be old enough to know better. The day before my mates were on the telly (which was last night) was my 34th birthday. I am old. And wizened. Bits of me hurt and other parts smell and I can never quite guarantee which bits are going to fall into which category. I am older now, in fact, than Pete was when I first met him. Pete is one of my mates (who were on the telly last night).

But guess what? Your mates being on the telly is still exciting. Thrillingly so.

We decamped to their local boozer in Hove for the hottest premiere that Sussex has seen since the Norman Invasion to watch. Any locals hoping to watch the Arsenal -West Ham Premier League match were squirrelled away in a room upstairs so as not to bother the people who were watching a televised gardening contest. But no matter, the atmosphere we all created was just as giddy as any communal pub football-watching experience of my life and far more good-natured. Opposing contestants were booed like pantomime villains, and when our heroes prevailed and won the preserves making test at the end, the roof came off. All told, having the gardening on instead of the football may appear to be a bold shift in conventional pub dynamics, but it was an unreservedly successful one. If nothing else, there was a buffet.

Next week my mates will be on the telly again. I'm not sure how I'll cope not watching it in a pub. For a start I won't know when to cheer. I'll probably have to make up all my own chants, too.

Your mates being on the telly is still exciting. However, it's not quite the same as it would have been in the past, because Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet and the internet has allowed the invention of Twitter. Twitter is an instant feedback sluice, a ceaselessly-flowing pipe of data and opinions, thoughts and feelings. Put another way, it's a shitfunnel, and this shitfunnel is going off in your face. Trepidatiously, I began to explore what other people were making of my mates being on the telly last night.

As I have mentioned before, I am now old. Old enough, at least, to not be surprised by people. And I've been on and around the internet for over a decade, so pretty much nothing shocks or offends me any more. So imagine my surprise when this was the very first tweet I saw on the subject:

hashtag: ponces

I wasn't surprised that people didn't like them per se, as we all know that not everyone is going to like you or like your friends. Also, television programmes are by their very nature never the whole picture. They are edited and re-ordered to fit a third party's view of what the narrative should be, with one eye always squarely on entertainment. Someone who doesn't like what they see of you on TV may be pleasantly surprised if they had to deal with you in real time.

I also wasn't surprised that someone who didn't like something had said so on Twitter. It is, after all, a shitfunnel and it's going off in your face. No, what surprised me is that I actually bristled. I bristled! How dare someone I don't know not like my mates (who were on the telly last night). He doesn't even know them! How can you dismiss someone without knowing all the facts?

Oh god, what was I doing?

Against my better judgement, I took another handful of blood pressure tablets and yomped in yet further. Predictably, there were just as many nice comments as nasty ones. Naturally, I found myself agreeing with these and growing increasingly convinced that the people tweeting them and I could grow to be firm friends.

This is, as far as I am concerned, the only rational response any human being could have had

Meanwhile, Lincoln WI approve. Summer Fetes in Spalding may have special guest jam judges this year

I think the positive comments very much outweighed the negatives in the end and so my researches were, on balance, a nice thing to do. My mates were on the telly last night but now they also represent many things to many people. They are everyman heroes, tweed-wearers of the year, nascent gay icons and the beards that just won't quit.

The only one of these things which started to niggle me, in fact, was the use of the word "hipster". "Hipster gardeners", "fashionably-bearded" and "hipster ponces" are all terms I have seen used. As I see it, "hipster" is just the fashionable term for people who try and be fashionable. Being fashionable is a reactive process, whereas Gary and Pete are proactive people. They don't look or dress like they do out of any notion of kowtowing to current trends. They are bringing sexy back on their own terms. Or, to put it another way, they're both too old to be hipsters. A hipster in their 40s would be a pathetic sight, and I think it's impossible to argue that either of our heroes is a pathetic individual. If nothing else, they kicked all your arses up and down that jam tent. Their bouquet was under-rated, too. Renaissance men. Upstanding men. Real men. There's no artifice or pretension there. So bloody shut up with the "hipster" thing, you idiots.


I mean, I might be biased. Next week I will probably be watching the show on my own with Twitter open and I can't guarantee that I won't wade in to any number of futile internet arguments. If this experience has taught me anything, it's that I've learnt nothing and can't be trusted to be rational when there are Feelings floating about. Now, disclaimers out of the way, I'm off to find some more proper, constructive appraisals of last night's show.

It's possible, but they'd only be their own bits that they'd severed by mistake

This is the sort of unnerved feeling you get just before you realise it is, in fact, lust

If you would like to know or see more (and by the way, you definitely do and should) then you can follow my mates (who were on telly last night) on Twitter here: @vegetablismuk, like their Facebook page here: Vegetablism or read their website here: You can also watch them being on TV thanks to the wise owls at the BBC who invented the iPlayer: The Big Allotment Challenge episode 1


You have reached the bottom of the internet