Victor Borge, Danish comedian/pianist, often featured on prime-time TV in Britain in the 1970s. In one popular routine he replaced punctuation with noises and would read novel extracts, peppering sentences with hilarious clicks and rasps. Can you imagine the sound of a mountain being made out of a molehill? (Difficult. Mountains only really make a noise when they avalanche or landslide. And I don’t suppose moles make much noise while burrowing. The only exception is in David Attenborough films when we see close-ups of them devouring worms and the BBC sound department dub what sounds like a drunk slobbering into a kebab).
I could see Borge realising a mountain/molehill transformation by growling heavily into his microphone, like Godzilla with chronic wind. The tabloid hysteria that greeted Robert Green’s blunder during England’s opening World Cup match in 2010 wasn’t so much molehills into mountains as the tectonic collisions that created the Himalayas. I’m surprised The Sun didn’t offer cardboard gibbets with dangling Green puppets for its open-minded readers to display next to their free St George’s crosses.
It’s time to focus on molehills. Football is a game, nothing more. Mistakes happen. Tackles can be badly timed. Defenders can miss in-swinging corners. Referees can fail to spot off-the-ball incidents. Strikers can launch the ball past open goals.
When England, inevitably, get knocked out, Green will be the fall guy. Why? Because a goalkeeping error is not only glaringly obvious, it can cost games. But that’s unfair. Every single time Wayne Rooney fluffs a chance at the other end, the end result is exactly the same. It can cost games.
Sadly for Green, football has evolved into so much more than a game. It’s a sponsorship-saturated entertainment industry that generates more income than the GDP of many African nations. And goalkeeping is nowhere near as glamorous as scoring goals. (Although Rooney and glamorous in the same sentence? I can hear Victor Borge’s king-sized raspberry at that one).
And while we’re on the subject of football being blown out of all proportion. Remember the media invective against Wayne Bridge for refusing to pull on the ‘three lions’ (after his best mate, £170,000-a-week John Terry played away with Bridge’s French girlfriend).
The tabloids demanded to know why Bridge couldn’t forgive and forget and put his country first. I’ll tell you why. In the first place, for ‘country’ substitute a bunch of Premiership prima donnas, oozing with bling, £1 million faux-Tudor mansions with swimming pools and Burberry wallpaper, and trophy wives botoxed to within an inch of their lives, for whom England’s international games are nothing but a shop window that ensures their lucrative careers are kept on track.
In the second place, Terry, a married man and father of two, fucked Bridges’ girlfriend, got her pregnant, then forced her to have an abortion. When news of the scandal broke, Terry’s legal team tried desperately to gag The Mirror from reporting the ‘fling’ for fear of jeopardising sponsorship deals. Anything else? Lots, actually. Terry allegedly took a £10,000 cash payment for organising a secret tour of Chelsea’s training ground. His father was stung selling class A drugs to undercover reporters. His mother and mother-in-law were caught shoplifting £800 worth of clothes and food from Marks and Spencers and Tesco. Terry was also arrested after a night club fracas in 2003, and later cleared of wounding.
Playing for his country? Bridge was quite right to put his pride and dignity first. There are much deeper fissures in England’s international reputation than one little goalkeeping blunder.
Franz Beckenbauer recently rubbished the current England squad. No wonder. The media are forever bigging them up, comparing them to the 1966 World Cup winners, led by Bobby Moore. Moore was a true professional. Beckenbauer referred to him as “a real gentleman and a true friend … the best defender in the history of the game”.
Something the current crop will never live up to. Take Wayne Rooney, an undeniably talented footballer who has been respectively England's youngest scorer and most red-carded player. He is also the world's current third highest-salaried player.
After insisting he was finished with Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, Wayne Rooney U-turned and committed himself to the club until 2015. This relegated prostitute revelations. For all that the tabloids froth about Premiership morals, the mud never sticks for long. Rooney’s antics reflect society beyond Old Trafford’s hallowed red bricks. Politicians are hardly terrific role models, jumping bedrooms the way players swap clubs. And perhaps the Pope wears white to celebrate that his church is supreme at whitewashing any mud.
Premiership footballers suddenly have unimaginable wealth thrust upon them. And many of these intellectually-challenged young men haven’t the imagination to see beyond fast cars and fast women. For those women, aspiring to be a ‘WAG’ is seen as a valid career choice. A website offers subscribers dates with Premiership stars. That our current celebrity and bling-obsessed culture, stoked by pay-per-view Sky TV, has ousted football from its traditional working class origins is merely a sign of the times.
As his undoubted talent diminishes over the seasons, Rooney will leave a less-inspiring list of achievements:
Paid a woman £140 for sex then gave her autograph: ‘To Charlotte. I shagged u on 28 Dec. Loads of love. Wayne
Proposed to Colleen on a petrol-station forecourt.
Introduced tabloids to ‘Auld Slapper’, a grandmother working in a backstreet Liverpool massage parlour. Her rate is £45.
Berated England fans who had spent a fortune travelling to South Africa to watch his flop World Cup performances.
While Colleen was pregnant had regular sex with Jennifer Thompson. (Her rate, £1,200, is only charged to “the ugly ones”).
Rooney is worth around £20 million now. Dundee FC, founded 1893, onetime European Cup semi-finalists, went into administration over a £365,000 tax bill. Rooney once owed more than double that to a mate in a gambling debt.
What is also atrocious is the way the Premiership's spoilt soccer prima-donnas are preyed upon by similarly vapid women attracted by the 24/7 shop/pamper/botox/orange-tan lifestyle their bloated bank balances offer. Whether it’s the prostitution of these WAGS, or ‘Auld Slappers’ or younger versions like Thompson, we live in a culture that encourages girls to value themselves as dumb sex objects first and females a dim, distant afterthought. Recent research revealed one in four lap-dancers has a degree. (And the current political climate has seen 14% hacked from University budgets - around £500m).
Greavesie used to say football was ‘a funny old game’. Those party to its millionaire lifestyle - star strikers, agents, sponsors, WAGS - are certainly laughing all the way to the bank.