Almanack: Fans who crave a pizza the action

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NEWS of a remarkable development in sports marketing: the New York Knicks, the Big Apple's basketball team, have guaranteed their supporters a free pizza each if the Knicks' opponents score 85 points or fewer and the Knicks win. But so far this season, although the Knicks have played outstandingly, the fans have stayed hungry. At least the scheme ensures vociferous support: before it was introduced, supporters would chant 'De-fence, De-fence' whenever the Knicks' basket was under threat; now the hunger-crazed fans cry 'Pizza] Pizza]' instead.

The idea is catching on. Rebecca Nairne of the British Basketball League tells Almanack that the Manchester Giants give away a pizza at every match: 'They have a draw for it, and the winner is given a free pizza.' Just the one. The Knicks probably draw 18,000 people to Madison Square Garden, so the scale of hospitality is a little different. 'At least Manchester are giving them away,' Rebecca protests. 'The way the Knicks are going at the moment they'll never have to . . .'

AS A service for readers without teams to support next summer, Almanack presents two special football squads:

The World Cup English-based XI (4-4-2): Thorstvedt; (Tottenham and Norway), Nilsson (Sheffield Wednesday and Sweden), McGrath (Aston Villa and Republic of Ireland), Kernaghan (Manchester City and Republic of Ireland), Bjornebye (Liverpool and Norway); Genchev (Ipswich Town and Bulgaria), Townsend (Aston Villa and Republic of Ireland), Harkes (Derby County and US), Kanchelskis (Manchester United and Russia); Flo (Sheffield United and Norway), Ekoku (Norwich and, possibly, Nigeria). Manager: Roy Hodgson (Switzerland).

And the Solar System Alternative All-Stars XI, chosen from the non-qualifying nations, to meet the winners of the 1994 World Cup for charity:

The Stay-at-Home XI: Schmeichel (Man U and Denmark); Desailly (AC Milan and France), Bruce (Man U, uncapped), Couto (FC Porto and Portugal); Francescoli (Torino and Uruguay), Tugay (Galatasaray and Turkey, captain), Boban (AC Milan and Croatia), Gascoigne (Lazio and England); Sosa (Internazionale and Uruguay), Cantona (Man U and France), Giggs (Man U and Wales). Substitutes: Bosnich (A Villa and Australia), Boli (Olympique Marseille and France), Savicevic (AC Milan and Montenegro), Hakan (Galatasaray and Turkey), Futre (Reggiana and Portugal).

The chairman of selectors (actually, the only selector) apologises for the lack of African players, the result of his ignorance. Other complaints on a postcard, please, to the manager: Billy Bingham.

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