Johnny Nic’s World Cup media diary – part five: Booing Neymar, ignoring Ronaldo and more

Date published: Thursday 8th December 2022 8:19 - John Nicholson

Santos update on Ronaldo

Johnny keeps on listening and watching the World Cup as Dawn keeps on building stuff and having baths. There’s praise for Coisty of course…

 

MONDAY DECEMBER 5
The day dawns gloriously cold, clear and blue, though not quite frosty. Our house overlooks where the Firth of Clyde meets the River Clyde, Holy Loch and Loch Long and on days like this, the water is the colour of a sapphire, the air as sweet as summer dew. Okay, there’s a black submarine carrying a Trident nuclear weapon floating past, but even so, it’s a reminder that with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

The outwash from England’s result on Sunday night continues with the Gareth haters largely keeping their powder dry, hoping we lose to France in order to justify their own warped views, relying on the ‘they’ve not played anyone yet’ get-out clause, which fundamentally doesn’t understand how football works. Tell it to Belgium or indeed Spain.

Postie arrives with some records. Get in. A nice vinyl copy of Bon Jovi’s ‘Keep The Faith’, two Black Sabbath 7” picture discs, Airborne by Curved Air and a Scorpions 12” picture disc of ‘Send Me An Angel’. A decent haul. Still not enough.

Dawn takes me over the water on the ferry and we head to Greenock because I need my eyes tested and the local optician is booked up for months, so I miss all of the build-up to the afternoon game. Life too often gets in the way of football, doesn’t it?


Japan v Croatia
However, I catch the second half of the commentary on 5Live as we sit on the ferry home. ABB is with Peter Schmeichel for this one. Peter is perfectly fine and his accent gives the broadcasting an interesting flavour. I like the way he says ‘oh my God’ when someone makes a mistake. It doesn’t feel that there is much of a relationship between the two of them but it gets better into extra time and penalties.

I want Japan to win of course, which guarantees Croatia will. Every team I back loses nine times out of 10. I’ve tried second guessing this by backing a team I don’t really want to win, but the universe knows I’m bluffing. So far I’ve wanted the USA, Australia, Poland, England and Japan to win. I’ve used up my luck with England which means South Korea, Morocco and Switzerland will all lose.

As we return home, Dawn, who drives me everywhere because I could never coordinate my body for long enough to be able to master the art of vehicle propulsion, says she hasn’t heard of anything about the problems with Qatar for ages now and speculates that football is making people forget. It’s hard to disagree. Broadcasters blew their wad in the first week on it. Will we get any more exploration of the human rights abuses, about the opposition to women’s and gay rights?

When home, I have a chat with a local and I ask if they’re enjoying the football, but they’ve not watched any of it. It’s striking how few people are bothered about football really, though when you’re up to your neck in it seven days per week, it’s easy to think everyone else is too.

I make sausages, onion gravy, mashed potato and celeriac, carrots and sprouts which go down very well.

 

Brazil v South Korea
Mark Chapman is doing the radio build-up and I find myself wondering if he is still up for it the way he may have been at the start of the tournament. There are just 10 games to go and you wouldn’t be human if you couldn’t get excited about Brazil v South Korea after seeing over 50 other games. The other day, someone had commented that he looked quite miserable until the red light came on and then perked up immediately the broadcast began. I guess that’s the sign of a professional. But there’s no indication tonight that he is weary at the thought of another game of football. Even so, it must wear you down, however privileged you might feel to be working at a World Cup.

Neymar is playing and I let out a long loud boo. I think I dislike Neymar even more than Messi. He just seems like a monumental git. The worst example of the over-remunerated ego-fuelled prick that modern football indulges.

Vinicius Neymar Brazil

Still, Champo and Ally Mac are on TV comms so I jump into their jacuzzi and pour myself a double double of gin and prepare for the beating that Brazil inevitably dishes out.

Ally is purring over their great football and it absolutely is. Neymar scores a penalty and celebrates as though he is having some sort of aneurysm, tongue hanging out, hands flapping around his ears.

As this happens Dawn emerges holding a caulking gun and looks witheringly at Neymar and pals. ‘What’s wrong with him?’ she asks.

I try not to feel grumpy about the lame dancing. Can any footballers actually dance? It’s always some watery limp affair that they seem disproportionately pleased about, Richarlison actually scowls when he scores a great goal. It all seems too knowing and self-regarding.

The match is over as a competition after 30 minutes. Korea falls apart and have got their tactics wrong and don’t even seem to have the energy to start kicking Brazil’s players, which would at least give us something entertaining.

Roy is pleasingly annoyed at all the dancing and says it’s disrespectful. Souey, who is wearing an electric blue jacket, says with withering sarcasm it must really have hurt Richarlison to get kicked on the studs for the penalty. It must be strange for him watching a game like this because he knows fine well, he would gone over the top of the ball to take Richarlison out and he’d have straight-legged Neymar to do his knee in and get him off the pitch. For which he would’ve got a yellow card. I wonder if he runs the movie in his mind. How things change.

“Don’t showboat,” advises Souy before the restart, “That’s how you get injured. Someone will go through one of them,” he says, with a swish of the old tiger’s tail, clearly wanting to do it himself.

I return to 5Live for the second half comms to find Chris S and Denno bitching at each other. There’s talk of Top Trumps and VHS recorders.

Brazil and doing their flicks and tricks. It’s always ‘flicks and tricks’ isn’t it? Never just flicks, never just tricks.

The second half is a bit more of a contest, thankfully. Denno says “as a neutral one would’ve been hoping for more goals”. Maybe, but not for Brazil. Thankfully Korea score and win the second half 1-0. For all the brilliance of Brazil, there is a danger of blessing their every touch with genius when it really doesn’t deserve such deification. Same as Messi.

There follows another awful footballer-packed ad for Pepsi, trying to make drinking their corporate fizzy jizz more acceptable, and of course it features Messi as every footballer ad seems obliged to. H scuttles around like a rat in the outhouse.

Eni says Croatia will do well to see how Serbia stopped Brazil. South Korea were ridiculously open.

“You’d have emptied him tonight for some of his antics,” Souey says with a nod to Roy about Neymar. What a great expression ‘emptied him’ is. A classic example of Scottish vernacular as poetry. No-one asks what it means, but everyone knows.

 

TUESDAY DECEMBER 6
The first frost arrives overnight, which is about two months late, and the day arrives in my synapses clear blue and ice cold. For breakfast I make my version of patatas bravas, frying the potatoes in ghee and using sweet smoked paprika, lots of green chillies and crushed fennel seeds in the hot tomato sauce. I serve it with cold leftover sausages, then spend three hours in the garden doing winter work, humping compost around, weeding all the bark paths and pruning the raspberries. It’s cold but satisfying. Meanwhile Dawn is putting the doors on the armoire and installing shelves.

Postie arrives and delivers a lampshade, a box of oat milk, demeter-grown (look it up) chickpeas, a Coney Hatch 7” single and an Extreme 12” picture disc. Nice.

 

Morocco v Spain
“I’m so looking forward to this because Morocco have been superb in this tournament,” says Vicki Sparks on 5Live as we get ready for the first game of the day. I fancy Morocco to have half a chance in this one too, which means they will lose. Their crowd looks great, someone is dressed as a lion, someone else has what appears to be a monkey glove puppet conducting proceedings and is that a black toy horse? Excellent work. I endorse the use of glove puppets in football and life more generally.

Pat is on with Vicki and Seb H and John Hartson are on ITV. Pity no-one has a glove puppet.

A military helicopter flies over the house, very low, following the river. Has a war started? There is a massive arms dump just across the other side of Loch Long at Glen Douglas Munitions Depot. A neighbour once told me that we’d be the last people left alive in a nuclear war because this place is so well defended due to this and that Trident-loaded subs go in and out of Faslane. This is not actually very comforting as a nuclear war would probably warp my records.

At half-time, Joe Cole, Nadia and HRK are with Laura. They’re all in white or beige cotton and linen, making it look like a Nicole Farhi store.

Pat says Morocco are a cobra, just waiting and waiting to attack. They looked like a knackered cobra by the end of the game and it goes to extra time. Guillem Balagué says Spain has an alarming lack of players to change how they play. Even so, I expect them to win. But they don’t do it in extra time, even though Morocco are out of their feet. Penalties.

Vicki Sparks absolutely leathers the shootout commentary, with a fantastic yelling performance as Spain miss each penalty. “What a moment, what a historic moment,” says Pat who disparages Spain’s performance. Indeed, it was like they didn’t want to win, their penalties were so lame. The Moroccan crowd is going absolutely and splendidly apeshit. “What incredible scenes here,” says Pat. They’re just howling into the camera. “You can see, you can feel how much it means.”

So for once a team I wanted to win actually does. That can’t happen again, can it?

 

Portugal v Switzerland
There’s just time for a bowl of pasta and pesto and a bath to ease my gardening muscles before the evening game, the last of the Round of 16. I take a peek at the armoire now installed at the head of the bed. Dawn points to a half-centimetre gap where one door isn’t quite aligned to the top of the frame. It’s annoying the hell out of her and for a moment I wonder if she’ll bin it and start the doors again. It has been known.

However, I point out that she’s not a professional joiner and that it is hardly noticeable (I wouldn’t have spotted it if she hadn’t shown me) and incredibly she accepts this, which is quite out of her perfectionist character. She blames an uneven floor and I nod like I understand. Now it needs painting, then it needs to have the paint partially rubbed off and then a matt varnish applied. Of course.

I’m delighted to hear the distinctive tones of Coisty and Clive, ITV’s dream team, doing the game as I wander into the room and feed Rabbie, who has come in from the frosty night with very chilly ears. I celebrate with a double double of gin and water.

I’ve just got into position when Ramos hits a beauty for Portugal. He’s starting instead of the bulbous CR7 ego and looks less than his 21 years. Clive goes into overdrive: “He has blasted Portugal into the lead.”

“Dear me; the power,” gulps Coisty and they purr about it for the next five minutes. “What a hit, dear me,” he adds again, almost as though chuntering to himself by the fire with a single malt. “There was a naivety about it,” adds Clive about Ramos having the nerve to hit it in at the near post with such power.

There’s a deep resonant noise from the bedroom. Dawn must have the kickstart vibrator out again.

Pepe leaps, if not like a salmon, then like an auld fella falling out of a first floor window onto a trampoline, to head a goal unopposed. “Thumping header from a man who is approaching middle-age,” says Clive.

“He’s going to be some player when he’s 40,” says Coisty, which makes me laugh out loud.

READ LATER: ITV World Cup coverage has been lit up by the schoolboy enthusiasm of Ally McCoist

Dawn comes in for a vodka oat milk to drink in the bath and points at Shaqiri. “It’s a pig man,” she says, quoting a line from Seinfeld, as we are both prone to do. “There’s a whole race of pig men,” I add. She makes a snorting sound and disappears for an hour of hot watering.

Wright, NDJ and G Nev are with Pougers. Wrighty seems to be wearing some kind of fashionable parachute trouser. Mark has got yer da’s jacket on. They make a couple of comments and the ads fill in the rest of half time. Honestly, they don’t need three pundits when there is so little time to fill.

“Look at that smile, just look at his face,” yells Clive, as the boy Ramos sticks in a third at the near post. An echo of Barry Davies is always rightly present. Ramos looks like a boy who has been asked out for the first time. Boyish, almost embarrassed. Post goal, there’s no lame dancing, no sour-faced, too-cool-for-school posing, just a happy smile, free of strutting, performative ego .

“They are cutting through Switzerland at will with style and panache,” says Clive as Portugal score a fourth.

Bruno Fernandez goes down pulling an anguished expression, clutching his cheek like someone has cut off his face with a bread knife, having been lightly brushed by a defender.

When Ramos scores his third Clive bellows: “Goncalo Ramos has arrived on the big stage!”

Ronaldo comes on like an old nag that has escaped from the knacker’s yard. He canters around like a riderless horse at the Grand National, looking for some glory by doing almost nothing. But his presence is irrelevant and has cleverly proved how superfluous he now is.

They looked more impressive than Brazil in this 6 – 1 win and have less arseholes in the team, not literally, of course.

Afterwards there is a spelling test on 5Live. Impressively Alistair Bruce-Ball spells Wojciech Szczęsny correctly.

And that’s it for the next couple of days as we’re released from football jail until Friday and can get on with life.

 

Read more: Johnny Nic’s World Cup media diary – Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four

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