Close, but no cigar

The Football World Cup (I can’t bring myself to call it the FIFA World Cup, as we’re supposed to nowadays) should be a fantastic opportunity for brands. In particular, it’s a place to borrow the passion and energy of the thing we all get most excited about.  No, not street-fighting and British self-loathing; I’m thinking of the football.

In the past, Adidas had its moments but Nike was King of the World Cup ad – despite not being a sponsor – clever eh?  More recently Beats by Dr Dre has excelled.

But Beats’ new 2018 version is a big disappointment.  It has many of the elements: big names; check, cool track, check, flashbacks, flash forwards, check, underdog story; check …..etc and so on.  But no banana; you just don’t end up caring one way or the other.


There’s still time for someone to step in and save the day with a new blockbuster.  In the meantime, let’s just luxuriate in the sheer amazing-ness of the last Beats World Cup ad from 2014.



That’s better.


She is a thing of beauty, no?


Not the kit.

The press release, silly.

“The collection features a commissioned artwork featured on the jersey from underground street artist Hazul Luzah. The design, in his signature contrasting line-work and free hand geometric pattern, throughout the jersey … features a combination of White, Dazzling Blue and Maldives Blue. The jersey also features top shoulder bonded tape … and a button shawl flat knit collar. The socks feature an elasticated ankle zone”


Bliss.  As ‘The Fiver’ succinctly puts it: Porto unveil their third kit with a blizzard of nonsense.

Football therapy


It has long been my belief that football’s feverish popularity demands more explanation than the usual sport / tribal / male bonding stuff we hear.

For some years, I took my young son to watch Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.  The main result was that he learned to swear convincingly and with the correct intonation.  The experience should have provided a clue.

This classic photo of Dele Alli taunting the crowd, after scoring the winner for Tottenham against Chelsea, makes everything clear and should put our minds at rest.  Just out of shot is a big guy being physically held back by his mates – was he actually going to burst out and attack Alli?  Or was it just bluster?  A few weeks ago, there was a genuine crowd invasion at West Ham, with accompanying low level violence, leading to all kinds of condemnation and hand-wringing.

The role of football (please don’t call it soccer, even if you’re American) is to give a safe place to vent the pent up vitriol which would be unacceptable in normal daily life.  A few minutes in the stands at any Premiership match should verify this.  The hatred expressed   – typically at your own players rather than (though also in addition to) opponents and, of course, the referee, can only be explained as some kind of perverse therapy.

The most unpleasant people I have ever met were parents watching (and screaming at) their sons in junior football matches.  Here were people who would get into fights with each other in between taunting and belittling eleven year olds, with language to make your hair curl. I fully expect if you met those same people in any other walk of life, they’d be fine polite, upstanding members of the community.

So the fans screaming and gesticulating at Alli are probably the nicest of people, if you met them socially.  Just avoid them on match day.

Nasty Leeds (LOL)

It’s no accident that The Guardian’s satirical football bulletin refers to Leeds United as ‘Nasty Leeds’.  They had previously been known as ‘Dirty Leeds’, which was, for some reason deemed insufficient.  Leeds is one of those football teams who manage to pick a fight with anyone and everyone.  Every match they play seems to be a grudge match of some sort; either a fierce local derby or an re-enactment of some past rivalry, injustice or unsavoury incident.

When “feisty” Dennis Wise became Leeds manager a few years ago, he stated that he wanted them to recapture their true character: “I want them to be horrible and nasty, like the great Leeds teams of the past”.

So it was with a slightly bashful smile that I observed Leeds’ latest embarrassment.  Last week, the Club introduced a new badge, which was immediately lambasted by large numbers of fans, through social media.


The coverage has focused on the fans’ reaction.  The club has promised to consult more widely and review the design.  That’s code for “start again, ‘cos we screwed up”.

The original rationale for the badge is that the ‘chest thump’ is an action known as the ‘Leeds salute’.  The not-always-explicitly-stated issue is that it looks a lot like a kind of fascist salute.  “And nobody wants that” as the armchair football critic might observe.  (But clearly not an accident either, as the armchair Leeds-watcher might observe.)

On the other hand, I would contend, the Leeds badge has a certain “comedy Fascist” quality, which is more funny than threatening.

It’s almost perfectly represented by the characterisation of would-be Black shirt leader Roderick Spode, in the Bertie Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse.

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If you don’t believe me, enjoy the clip.

Better to laugh at these things than to get upset, I often feel.






From our ‘Fun and Games in Central America’ Department

Delighted to see an example of real leadership in action.  Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela announced overnight, on twitter, that there would be a National Holiday, following the country’s unexpected qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

I suspect he may have been drunk.  Which makes it even better.

VarelaCan you imagine one of the stuffed shirts that pass for leaders in Britain doing that?