Tom Peck on World Cup 2014: Never mind the actual footy, it’s pundit punditry that will get them glued to their sofas


Though their distraction proved only minor, it comes as a relief that England are now officially gone, at least in a competitive sense, from Brazil 2014.

Alright, so no one imagined they might threaten Ronnie Biggs’s unofficial Guinness record for Survival in Brazil Against the Odds, amusing as it would have been to find Rooney suddenly the victim of a botched kidnap attempt by the British intelligence services, saved from a furious Coleen only by the intervention of the Barbadian coastguard.

But this tournament has been proving far too full of distractions from the nation’s newest and truest footballing passion - pundit punditry. The unforeseeably high quality of play, the goals, the comebacks, that too has interfered.

This column, marooned as it is on the parochial outpost of Copacabana and forced to consume British cultural life entirely through the realm of social media, surely cannot be alone in realising that no one actually cares about football anymore, at least not the inconsequential part of the game that involves the players kicking the ball about between one another.

If Facebook, Twitter and most of the rest of the internet is to be believed, this is not Neymar’s tournament, nor Suarez’s nor Messi’s. It belongs to Chiles, to Henry, to Shearer. Phil Neville is the star now, the players merely the bright oils with which to paint his analytical masterpiece.

As such, this column gives away free to any enterprising television executives the idea that will transform the game forever. Pundit punditry belongs on screen.

It’s shocking to think it’s not been done properly yet. Why pay Fifa’s astronomical rights for the football itself? Instead as soon as the second half kicks off, on come a new team of analysts to argue over the nitty gritty of the half time analysis. Whose insight shone? Who underperformed? Best tie? Best joke? Best venomous barb? Best twee ‘in my day’ self-deprecation?

Naturally, the viewers can join in too. “Yes, we’ve got a tweet here from David, in Newcastle that says, ‘Alan Shearer is a legend.’ But as for Ian in Sunderland, well he doesn’t agree at all.”

All the scandals are there to be ruminated over, and the transfer speculation. “Coming up next, we’ll have all the latest on Roy Keane’s eleventh hour withdrawal from ITV. And with Hansen finally out of contract, could Al-Jazeera come calling?“

Then there’d be the fantasy leagues, where you play the producer, with the whole year’s programming budget to control. It’s Chelsea vs Bayern this week. The Champions League quarter-final. Ballack will cost you fourteen grand, that’s two thirds of your studio budget. You could get Owen Hargreaves for ten. Or do you just pick up Clive Allen for a tenner, save your money and buy an option on Benitez in case they get Liverpool in the next round?

Of course it might just be that, to the person sat on their sofa watching at home, the I-could-do-better-than-that resentment that calls forth the fingers to the social media keyboard is felt more strongly towards the middle-aged men sat pontificating on their sofa over Copacabana, than it is towards the younger chaps on the pitch, actually running about.

In reality, as Phil Neville proved, neither is as easy as it looks.

You have to pity Chilean fans their unarmed conga

The Chilean fan invasion of the Maracana press centre might appear a touch unsavoury, but in the main, it is a cause for much optimism.

One has to pity Los 85, who have burned less gloriously in the glare of the international spotlight than their mining counterparts. The pictures of them being marched in single file by riot police are a sad spectacle. Billowing flags still tied round waists, hands held on the shoulder of the man in front, a day that should have been remembered rather differently, ending in a sad conga all the way to the border and deportation.

In the amateur footage of the opportunistic raid itself that has done the usual rounds, one has to feel most sorry for the only two women featured who are, in the ensuing rush, the only two of the 85 to faceplant into the Tarmac. Even a leading feminist theatre producer has identified it as a ‘classic white wine tumble.’

One school of thought is that it is most unlucky for Fifa that of all the gates to be breached, it should have to be the one that leads directly in to the wide angle lenses of every news organisation in the world.

But on the other hand, it serves as proof that the sideways blinking lizards who control football may not be as evil as is regularly put about. Also in that room - raided by a third party with whom no traceable links could be established - were so many of its mortal, pen-pushing enemies. The CIA would have armed them first.

Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
i100Most young people can't
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home