Football Diary: Euro joke ahead of its time

SOME people cannot take a joke. Eurosport's authentically packaged April Fool gag - involving (briefly) Fifa recognising Macedonia, an outraged Greece withdrawing from USA 94 and England's call-up to France's disgust - provoked a torrent of emotional calls from across the Continent to the satellite TV channel. Switchboard highlights as follows: English euphoria, one man rushing out and buying a plane ticket to America (Eurosport agreed to reimburse his trip); Irish concern, with many callers fearing Jack's boys would eventually face England and they could not stomach another 0-0 (one even tried to contact Charlton but was told he had gone fishing); Dutch anger, stemming from last year when an English newspaper offered San Marino financial incentives to beat the Netherlands; French fury, Cantona's compatriots being convinced Eric and Co should have replaced Greece - one Peeved of Paris even demanded his government fill in the Channel Tunnel.

DAVID SEAMAN broke his arm when he was kidnapped recently. A pounds 300 hardboard cut-out of the Arsenal custodian strangely went missing at one of the Gunners' public five-a-side charity fund-raisers. Tournament organisers, with a degree of sleuth-work expected of a club who once staged 'The Arsenal Stadium Mystery', deduced which team had been knocked out during the period when Seaman's effigy disappeared. On being contacted by Arsenal, the chastened culprits admitted making Seaman accompany them out of the building and asked for an extra offence to be taken into consideration. The Boy David had sustained an injury to his right arm in the Colditz-style flight. Fortunately he is now back at Highbury - with a sling supporting his injured limb.

A MASS rummaging is going on in attics across Merseyside. To mark next Saturday's end of the Kop as an all-standing, all-singing institution, Liverpool fans have been asked to wear old club shirts and wave banners from past campaigns. With luck, this Flag Day could see the return of 'Kings Of Football', 'Moses Said Come Forth. But We Came First' and 'Joey ate the Frogs' legs, made the Swiss roll, Now he's Munching Gladbach'.

LIECHTENSTEIN'S version of Wembley, the Rheinan Stadium in Balzers, can accommodate more than a third of the country's population of 30,000 - the equivalent of Wembley holding 18 million people.

ENCOURAGING news for Manchester United fans, George Best admirers, or anyone interested in an engrossing football film: 'This Boy's Story', the Best-obsessed Oscar-winner which the Diary reported last week still awaits a broadcaster, has now aroused the interest of Channel 4 and United themselves. If the Reds do the Double, there could be quite a tug-of-war.

CONCLUDING our monthly Top Of The Fifa Pops countdown (based on results up to 15 March), from 49-1: big climbers include Zambia, up eight rungs to 22 with only 4,100 registered players (12th- placed England have 2.5m) and Romania, in 10th. Ivory Coast (28) rise above Scotland (30, down five) to within a place of Wales (the Republic slip two to 13 while Northern Ireland drop to 42, trends which will reverse next month). At the top Germany reign ahead of Brazil. Fifa ranks Norway as the world's No 3 team (just ahead of Denmark) - one wonders what the new-look England would do to Norway now.

Stats Life

THE bottle of Wild Turkey Bourbon for freak fact of the week goes to Steve Coyle, of Newark, for the following . . .

'Last weekend, Coronation St Rovers fielded a select XI: '(Rita) Sullivan (Wimbledon), (Phyllis) Pearce (Nottm Forest), (Reg) Holdsworth (Wimbledon), (Emily) Bishop (West Ham), (Alf) Roberts (Leicester), (Des) Barnes (Liverpool), (Ken) Barlow (Plymouth), (Jim) McDonald (Walsall), (Don) Brennan (Oldham), (Jenny) Bradley (Scunthorpe), (Martin) Platt (Sampdoria). Subs (from the archives): (Annie) Walker (Walsall), (Len) Fairclough (Mansfield).'

More bourbon next week. Entries to Football Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.