Lager's coming home

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The Independent Culture
MATTHEW PARRIS was on Radio 4 the other week, saying he became a homosexual in order to get away from sport; but these days, even gay men were talking about football, as if to the laddish manner born. It was all, he said, a bit too much.

Well, he'd better not watch any commercial TV for a while, because the World Cup is even more represented in current advertising than it is in programming. You could be watching Melvyn chatting up some 90-year- old about artistic Paris in the Twenties, but come the commercial break, practically every advert will have your nose in the football trough. I'm just waiting for Umbro Barbie.

Carlsberg, not usually the most laddish of advertisers, has a nice twist in its World Cup commercial. Their little conceit is about a universal fascination with the England team line-up, with serious men across the world discussing the merits of Shearer and Sheringham.

It's exotic stuff. We open on something that looks uncomfortably like the bridge on the River Kwai, with a couple of workman types settling over their Tupperware rice boxes and saying - in subtitles - "you've gotta play Seaman". Then some Buddhist monks in tree-house temples - nice robes, sculptural old faces - are back on the subject, at a level of conversation that looks positively telepathic. "Shearer and Sheringham," they say, looking straight ahead. "Why?" "They seem to read each other's minds."

Then there's a gaggle of earnest bespectacled young oriental salarymen in a bar somewhere seriously hot. Instead of the Nikkei or the Hang Seng, they're doing international men's talk too. "Neville!" "Owen!" they cry, punctuated by fly-swatting.

Then, in "Africa" - here the location-finder and the stylist really go to town - we get a pair of men with fantastic chiselled faces, and amazing clothes like 19th-century toy soldiers, beautifully framed up in Conde Nast Traveller style. They're swilling Carlsberg from the bottle while nature gets very red in tooth and claw behind them. While the lioness kills Bambi (I think I've seen this particular episode of Animal Psychopaths), Young Blood No 1 says, "Ince," and YB No 2 says, "Too right." You'd think they'd spent their lives in Shepherd's Bush.

It all closes on a neat little field-diagram, with the players' names replaced by official Carlsberg slogans, and the Official England Team Supporter thing, followed by the St George's flag. And they always used to crack on that they were Danish.