When Dimbleby met Lewandowski

Upsetting scenes on the Mall

While the Jubilee is all frivolous historical nothings and ultimately just an opportunity to showcase their roster of jack-of-all-trades airheads, the Euros present an altogether more solemn affair, imbued with unshakeable grandeur – and the Beeb’s opportunity to wheel out sage old pundits for whom the advent of a European tournament that dates all the way back to 1960 – making it substantially more historical than the monarchy, which didn’t commence until 1997.

For proof that football coverage lies beyond meddling to BBC bigwigs, look no further than Alan Hansen’s £2, 500, 000 a year contract; a small price to pay for such eloquent dissections of the use of the back-pass in that pre-Diana Liverpool side, I’m sure you’d agree. Not for football’s finer exponents a painfully misappropriated title from some vacuous what-shall-we-plonk-him-on-next face.

“And there goes Michel Platini, a former winner of The Making The Ball Hit The Back Of The Net Most Times Award during France’s 1984 triumph.”

“The What?”

“The Making The Ball Hit The Back Of The Net Most Times Award.”

“Christ. It’s called the Golden Boot, Jake.”

“Same thing you big pedant. Anyway Lawro, who do you reckon will win the European Cup?” And so on…

In hindsight, a simple solution would be to have the editors and producers of both teams simply swap sides. Had the Jubilee been broadcast with the gravitas Guy Mowbray usually reserves for West Brom versus Sunderland, complaints may have may been reduced to those who suffered an uncomfortable excess of feeling.

The crowds would be fairly similar, the only difference being that English racism is obviously far more reserved and dignified than in Poland and the Ukraine, occurring in professional, as opposed to leisure arenas.

The chanting of “Philip, Philip, Philip” that reverberated up through the Mall after Prince Charles’ mention of his father’s illness was perhaps the first time I’d ever heard that particular grandee referred to informally, and one suspects the Duke was appalled at so many prols addressing him on first name terms. Still, if he’s lucky he won’t have to experience such flagrant hubris again.

It would have been easy to forget that this is the man who is frequently ridiculed – probably by the mob on the Mall in their less euphoric moments, for that matter – and in that regard “Philip” has become an honorary footballer, for he experienced the sort of extreme reception usually only reserved for Tevez & Co.

He got an injury, and had his name chanted. If he does his day job badly (whatever that is) he gets slaughtered by the public and the press, who say he has too much money and is clearly “out of touch” (whatever that is). A new title should perhaps read: ‘HRH the Duke and Holding Midfielder of Edinburgh’; his grave: ‘He gave 110% for his country.’

With this in mind, I’d be keen to see Fearne Cotton interviewing racists in Ukraine, dolled up in a Dynamo Kiev away shirt and conical white headgear; assimilation similar to the Lady Penelope-esque makeover she underwent at the weekend.

But back to Football equalling Seriousness, and one worries that the question: “What will Jordan Henderson offer this England side?” won’t be met with howls of derisive laughter and wet pants this weekend, but rather genuine, rational analysis; which will force pundits to attempt Blowers-esque levels of digression by essentially saying nothing over a considerable period of time. Not that this is usually a problem.

With the severity bestowed upon ‘our national game’ in mind, can it be much longer until the first pundit just keels over in studio, his poor exhausted heart finally capitulating after a series of debatable substitutions in the Palace/ Swindon Carling Cup tie? My money would be on the humourless Garth Crooks (is he going over there? Tough call for someone), who seems to take Mario Balotelli’s very existence as a personal affront. The concept of an individualist on the field of play is too abhorrent for most BBC pundits, employed for their willingness to tow the line. It says much about the charisma vacuum amongst Mark Bright et al that the corporation had to send Noel Gallagher to prise the occasional grunt from the Italian “madman”. Presumably Gallagher matched the ‘able to speak to people who think there’s more to life than football’ job spec.

As a fan, I want to see silly guides to silly cities with Frank Skinner. I want Ray Winstone arm wrestling his Ukranian equivalent; a prize for the England fan donning the shirt of the lowest ranking team on these shores last season. “Congratulations Gary, here’s your victory pint – and we wish The Poppies the best of luck for next season.” Not vox pops where Polish fans say Poland will win the tournament, and Spanish fans say Spain will, and Danish fans say D… I suspect you’ve seen where this is going. We’ve got Alan Shearer for banal nonsense. Big Al has predicted Roy’s boys will find themselves in the semi-finals. And why such unfettered optimism? Well none other than that timeless homage to reason: “I’m a patriot.”

The rumour that there’s more to life than football has been given greater backing by UK Ministers’ decision not to travel to England’s group games. I daresay Shearer will be largely ignorant of the plight suffered by Ukranian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko – which is hardly surprising when you bear in mind he didn’t know who Hatem Ben Arfa was – so expect a look of disappointed betrayal to find its way to his countenance, complemented by a spoken “it’s a sad state of affairs”; a reaction he can usually be found demonstrating for events such as Djibril Cisse kicking the ball away once the whistle has sounded. Of Foreign Secretary William Hague he’ll opine: “He’s not just a perpetrator of treason, he’s a perpetrator of great treason.”

Organisations who will be going all out on “it’s just a bit of banter” – and have indeed already started – are the governments of Poland and Ukraine, who have brushed off the BBC’s footage of anti-Semitic chanting and Pakistani-supporter-bashing via the old “typical overreaction” line – as utilised to such good effect by any number of right-thinking torch-bearers for the beautiful game; Keys, Gray and Jimmy Hill, to name but a few.

Taken as a whole, UK MPs have essentially elected not to watch 270 minutes of two-banks-of-four-oh-yes-‘ard-to-beat-that-is football, for fear that it might be seen as an endorsement of the Ukranian government’s behaviour. From a global warming angle this is highly admirable, but I do wish they’d get some perspective: this could be JT’s last international tournament.