here‘s no dotrbt about it. the Man. or

Woman. of the Match is the hairdresser

for her solid contribution at the back.

Only An Excuse'.’ is. if nothing else. a

tribute to prosthetic hairpieces. How else

do you make Jonathan Watson look like Maurice Johnston one minute and Eric Cantona the next?

Football hairstyles are a running joke. a comedy basic: footballers can surely be the only social grouping that regards Michael Bolton as a serious style icon. Trouble is. the real thing is often too pre- posterous to larnpoon it‘s hard to top the real Archie MacPherson‘s Shredded Wheat thatch (surely he must be a blood relative of playboy newspaper editor Andrew Neil'?). The BBC Scotland team of teasers managed a creditable approximation. however.

Only An Excuse? relies on the recognition factor: the shared experience of watching Archie and Jim and Dougie attempt to extract nuggets of foot- ballerly wisdom from lumpen. and often lumpy. stu- dio guests. In a previous edition Watson and his partner Tony Roper donned the wigs to mimic Gordon McQueen. Derek Johnstone and that prince among studio guests. Denis Law. The challenge this time was to give these admittedly parochial targets a global stage for the World Cup special.

‘At the BBC they were saying it would be better if Scotland had qualified.‘ says director Philip Differ. ‘Our argutnent was it was better that we didn‘t from a comic point of view. There‘s more humour in failure than success and our angle is basically sour grapes.‘

That the show has an obsession with the Old Firm is not surprising Differ and Roper line up behind Celtic. Watson is a Hun and their staples are Catholic/Proddy/masonic/Pope jokes. Not so much scope for that in World Cup football. you might think. Not a bit of it. says Differ. Obviously the Catholic contingent will back Ireland. but what about the true-blues who can‘t bring themselves to cheer on the nearest thing to a British team‘.’ Why. those orginal Men ofOrange. Holland. of course.

‘At the end of the day.‘ says Differ. a commenta- tor‘s cliche rolling easily off his tongue. ‘the Old Firm dominate football. but we‘ve tried to spread it about a bit by introducing Ryan Giggs and Ossie Ardiles.‘

And finally. Phil. in the best traditions of football punditry. we need a prediction for the World Cup. ‘You‘ve got to look at Italy and Germany it‘s dif- ficult to see past them.‘ he says. ‘But I‘d have an outside bet on Colombia they‘re good at coming forward.‘ Ah. such mastery of the footballing bon mot. (Eddie Gibb)

Only An Ett‘ttseI’: World Cup Speeial is on Monday 13 June at 8.30pm on BBC].


Jonathan Watson works on his Champagne Charlie Impersonation.


t‘s a funny old game. filmrnaking. All ofa sud- den, arty sorts the length and breadth of the land are desperate to crowbar any soccer refer- ence possible into their creations, in that never- ceasing quest for street credibility. There are books. documentaries. plays. even an opera (Playing Away by Benedict Mason). Films on the other hand have been struggling with the sport for decades. from The Arsenal Stadium Mystery in the 30s to Gregory's Girl in the 80s. Nobody‘s quite managed to hit the back of the net: in turkeys like list'ape 'Io Vit‘tory they‘ve more often stuck the ball into row Z. TV has been the tnediurn to consistently capture

World Cup Special

0 the dramatic atmosphere appropriate to our beloved sport. Who remembers Another Bloody Saturday. Jack Rosenthal‘s impeccably constructed tribute to a frustrated referee? Those Glory Glory Days, Julie Welch’s homage to Danny Blanchflower? Or The Manageress, Stan Hey's ground-breaking series starring the unflappable Cheri Lunghi? Fair Game. the latest feature-length offering from the BBC is an honourable addition to the squad and. like Ally McCoist. seems to be in the right place at the right time.

The main factor in its favour is that it eschews any attempt to come to grips with the bloated deca- dence of the modem game. and lasers in with men- ing accuracy on the greatest football nostalgia fix possible. The 1970 Mexico World Cup is one of those rare events in sporting history: the sun shone. everything was perfect. the right team won. and they did it playing the best football that‘s ever been seen. then or since.

It‘s this heady cauldron of charged emotions that scriptwriter Stephen Bill taps. creating a many- stranded plot that pulls together north-of-England locations, a smattering of political argy-bargy and a neatly-framed triangular love story. The central theme. if there is one, is the wider horizons that the 70s brought with them. When sharp-suited Marco (Massimo Bellinzoni in mod drapes) steps out of his Lamborghini in front of Preston Library. yearning art student Ellie (Lena Headey) is smitten. She is a moral miss however and loyal to boyfriend Carl, who is himself torn between watching the football on TV. canvassing for the Labour Party and joining Ellie on a walking holiday across the Pennines.

It all works out in the best screwball comedy tra- dition. and even if the soundtrack is somewhat ersatz. the filmmakers ha.e given plenty of atten- tion to creating an authentic period flavour. It would be worth any price just to see those four Brazilian goals in the final anyhow. Now that‘s entertainment. (Andrew Pulver)

Fair Game is on BBC I on Saturday I 1 June.

tions of the Irish defence‘.

‘He'll ask

at l2.3()pm local time when Florida temperatures hit an average 90 degrees in the centre circle. Players will be allowed the occasional drink but the old Mexico trick of plastic bags of water will be banned because FlFA are concemed that ‘players will throw them at one another.‘ Not big or clever.

is for Pitch Almost always a P disgrace compared to our won-

derful lush. freshly-watered British surfaces. Whether the turf is cracked by the sun. rutted by grid- iron quarterbacks. or cursed with overlong grass. it is inevitable that TV pundits will ask. with an audible raising ofthe eyes to heaven. ‘How do they expect them to play decent football on that'?‘ They will of course.

is for ‘uuestlons’, reliable com- mentary speak for all situations. Hence ‘Baggio is asking ques-

a few questions from set-pieces‘. ‘The goalkeeper will be asking his defence a few questions after that goal.‘ ad nauseam. The implications are that if Iceland had stuck Magnus Magnusson up front for the qualify- ing games there‘d have been no stop- ping them.

is for Band Gullit, whose return R from self-imposed exile was shortlived after an inevitable bust-up with the delightfully-named Holland coach Dick Advocaat. It now seems unlikely that he will be gracing USA ‘94. His reasons aren‘t clear but might have something to do with no-nonsense British managers like ‘Big‘ Jack Charlton and ‘Big‘ Ron Atkinson‘s insistence on pro- nouncing his name with a hard ‘g‘. is for Switzerland, smooth quali- fiers for their first finals since 1966. They‘re already in the

news because their ‘canny Yorkshire manager‘ Roy Hodgson has attempted to impose a ban on his players having sex before or during the tournament (and definitely not at half-time). Worth looking out for the frustrated grimaces as the squad line up for the national anthems. ‘Hodgson is pulling off his winger‘ might have unexpected connotations.

is for Tears Gazza wasn‘t the T first and won‘t be the last to find

it all too much for him. ltalia ‘90 proved that sobbing sells. but don‘t expect to see Paul McGrath carried away by his emotions.

is for USA ‘Can the land of base- ball, gridiron. Hollywood and

Mickey Mouse take the round ball game to its heart?‘ Probably not. Already New York City authorities have asked FlFA if they can resched- ule the World Cup for a bit later in

the year. as the tournament coincides 16’

Bobby Moore: Still a wanted man In Bogota.

The List 3—l6 June 199419