Planet Football


Mary Hannigan’s Sideways Look At The World Of Soccer

Poet Duffy feels Beckham's woe, hack Morgan has a go

TRUE, THERE was a bit of a no-frills feel about it, but our favourite football poem has always been Peter Handke’s salute to the FC Nuremberg team of 1968. It went like this: “Wabra – Leupold – Popp – Ludwig Muller – Wenauer – Blankenburg – Starek – Strehl – Brungs – Heinz Müller – Volkert. Kick off: 15 o’clock.”

Yep, it was just the line-up and start-time from a cup game against Bayer Leverkusen, but seeing as football ISpoetry, what else would you need? For example, if you were addressing the big football story in England last week you’d opt for: “Beckham. Achilles. Ruptured. Season. Over. Poor. Lad.” Unless you’re the poet laureate, that is:

“Myth’s river – where his mother dipped him, fished him, a slippery golden boy flowed on, his name on its lips.

“Without him, it was prophesied, they would not take Troy. Women hid him, concealed him in girls’ sarongs; days of sweetmeats, spices, silver songs . . .

“But when Odysseus came, with an athlete’s build, a sword and a shield, he followed him to the battlefield, the crowd’s roar, And it was sport, not war, his charmed foot on the ball...

“But then his heel, his heel, his heel . . .”

Yes, Carol Ann Duffy was moved to pen this ode, David Beckham’s Achilles injury, after his World Cup hopes ended. “It’s fascinating the injury takes its name from Achilles,” she told the BBC, “the whole point of Greek myths is the combination of triumph and tragedy we follow in them. He is almost a mythical figure himself.”

It would be fairly accurate to say that Piers Morgan, in his Daily Mailcolumn, doesn’t quite share Duffy’s feelings:“Compared with genuinely loyal United heroes like Giggs, Scholes and Neville, Beckham’s been a treacherous, money-grabbing, club-hopping, fame-hungry, egotistical little weasel who likes nothing better than making everything all about HIM,” Morgan wrote. Nice.

Arshavin says all he has to say about ideological anarchism . . .

IT WAS another busy week for Andrey Arshavin on his website (, the little fella answering two brand new batches of questions in the “Ask Andrey” section.

Tiana: “What do you think of ideological anarchism?” Arshavin: “In order to give you an exhaustive explanation, I should thoroughly study this subject. So far I can’t say anything.”

Didi: “Hi Andrey, I bet nobody has ever asked you this and nobody ever will: what colour is your bath sponge?” Arshavin: “Blue.”

Lels: “Hello, Andrey! I would like to know whether you like cactuses.” Arshavin: “They are prickly. I remember we had them in kindergarten. We also had some at home. I didn’t like them then and I don’t like them now.”

Chesnaj: “Andrey, would you like to take part in some TV show? For example Dancing on Ice?” Arshavin: “If I took part in this show, it should be renamed A Cow on Ice.”

Anon: “Hi Andrey! What would you do if you were put on a desert island? Thanks in advance!” Arshavin: “If I was put on a desert island, I would die of boredom.”

From Africa: “Dear AA, having read your answers I’ve got the impression (perhaps I’m wrong) that you are bored of life!”   Arshavin: “I find life interesting.”

Not half as interesting as we find you, young Andrey.

Quote of the Week - Ian Holloway

“In the first half we were like the Dog and Duck, in the second half we were like Real Madrid. One minute I was pulling pints and collecting subs, the next I was on a luxury coach. At full time I was at them like an irritated Jack Russell who can’t quite get the mutt out of the hole – and they deserved that.

Not quite quote of the week but still quite good

“We’ve got to keep this in perspective. If we removed everybody in seniority that committed adultery we probably wouldn’t have anybody running the country.”– Geoff Hurst on John Terry’s transgressions.

"It's good to go a bit mad but I don't throw teacups around. That's not my style - I'd rather throw punches"- Roy Keane continuing to mellow in his middle age.

"The move on. I move on. I keep winning important things. They keep winning.....something. They won an FA Cup"- Jose Mourinho on Chelsea's trophy haul since he left.

Déja vu again - balls going in, chances missed. We should have been done and dusted by half-time...we had 15 chances, seven on target, seven on target"  - Dean Saunders, Wrexham manager

Number of the week  12

THAT’S HOW many players Louis van Gaal has proposed be left on the pitch, six-a-side, in the last five minutes of extra-time, the Bayern Munich coach urging Fifa to adopt his alternative to penalty shoot-outs. “Extra-time should consist of two 15-minute periods with each team losing a man every five minutes,” he said. “After 95 minutes 10 would play against 10, after 100 minutes nine on nine. From the 115th minute it would only be six on six. If there is still no result after 120 minutes, a golden goal would decide the game. I’m for the gladiatorial game!”

It’s probably a bit unlikely Sepp Blatter will rubber-stamp the proposals, which will be a blessed relief to Rory Delap — van Gaal has also called for the throw-in to be abolished.

WHERE IN THE WORLD - Serbia doesn't make the Belgrade with Rooney

BRITISH PLAYERS have, of course, got a bit of a ribbing over the years for their occasional slip-ups or slight knowledge-deficit when talking about lands beyond their shore. There was, for example, that Ian Rush quote about his unhappy time at Juventus – “It’s like living in a foreign country!” – and that old Mark Draper line, “I’d like to play for an Italian club – like Barcelona.”

Well, Wayne Rooney was having a chat with a Manchester United team-mate recently about the World Cup finals and what teams England might come up against if they make it through their group. The team-mate suggested that England v Serbia would be “an interesting game”, to which Rooney replied: “Serbia? Who plays for them?”

“He was joking, I think,” said Nemanja Vidic of, well, Serbia.