CRIES & WHISPERS
ONLY THREE days to go and the cultural bunker to hunker down in for the duration is almost complete: a high wall of Charles Buchan football annuals to screen off the rest of the living-room; a handy shelf of the better sort of football book for reference purposes (sadly, Ian Hamilton's Gazza Agonistes hasn't made the final selection); a pile of Brazilian samba CDs plus obligatory whistle, for those quiet moments, and a reliquary table containing jar of liniment, slightly foxed World Cup Willie mascot and spare Brazil replica kit in case of accidents. All that's left is to fiddle with the colour on the television to get the correct queasy green favoured by sets in the sort of Mediterranean bars you're afraid to enter, to gaffer-tape the remote-control to the chair, and then to tie yourself into it, like Beckett's Murphy. The lager comes via drip.

Though Beckett was mainly a rugger and cricket man, the roll-call of footballing literary lions is a long and honourable one, and for some reason, many of them have been goalkeepers. Take Albert Camus, who claimed that all he knew of life he owed to his brief period between the sticks for Algeria's reserves (and given their form, who wouldn't feel like Sisyphus?), or Vladimir Nabokov, who treasured his spell with the Cambridge University 11 before being transferred to the Russian Sporting Club of Berlin. For Vladimir, the cry of "Goal!" tripped as lightly off his tongue as "Lolita" was to do much later. Perhaps we can see some of this legacy of existential stoicism in David Seaman? Well, maybe not.

Sad as it may be, many otherwise admirable men measure out their lives not by the increments of family births, deaths, marriage and divorce, or career opportunities, but by the silly haircuts of South American footballers from World Cups gone by. "It was 1982, Mario Kempes had an extraordinary medieval job and Ricky Villa looked like he was auditioning for Iron Maiden. We tried Relate but we knew it was over."

Finally, is it too late to start the Desmond Lynam backlash? Fawned over by even the toughest broadsheet hacks as a kind of latter-day saint - "he could anchor the Last Supper and still keep his cool!" - Des's Home Counties golf-club lounge bar smoothie-appeal may have at last been smitten by hubris. A cameo in the lacklustre My Summer With Des (and was David Seaman's method-acting evidence of a debt to existentialism?) has been followed by dodgy commercials, suggesting that even St Des has taken the Don Revie approach to career management. Next season a big-money transfer to Sky could be on the cards. Meanwhile, in the best nouveau football- fan spirit (and remember that at World Cup time armchair football pundits become as ubiquitous as local-park tennis players during Wimbledon), mine's a mug of Marmite please.

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