For the political, royal and sporting heavyweights who took the stage for England last night it was Eddie Afekafe, a community project manager at Manchester City from Moss Side, who stole the show in a stunning presentation from the England bid.
No one could have asked for more from the English bid's final push yesterday and no one could have imagined quite how sure-footed Afekafe, 27, would be on the big stage. Speaking without notes and addressing the Fifa executive committee (ExCo) members from the centre of the stage rather than the rostrum, he was an inspired choice.
The thread that ran through it was Afekafe, proof of the power of football to change people's lives and the potential of a World Cup legacy. David Beckham used the example of his grandfather, Joe, who died a year ago yesterday as a way in to talk about his hopes for the future. Elbow's "One Day Like This" as the background track plucked at the heartstrings. But it was the substance that mattered most.
"Football changed my life," was Afekafe's opener that woke the ExCo out of their torpor following a dreadful top-of-the-head ramble from Spain's Angel Maria Villar Llona. Afekafe went on to explain his journey from unemployment and a world of gangs to a meaningful life through football. Cheesy? Not the way Afekafe delivered it.
It was a nice idea that it was Afekafe who introduced Prince William. He gave a decent, fairly short speech with one joke about his wedding – "I know we can deliver public occasions, I certainly hope so as I am planning one myself next year" – and a declaration of his "love" for football.
Cameron was up next, eschewing notes and speaking centre stage. He covered the "big ideas" section. First of all were the "three groups of people" the World Cup would serve: the players, the fans and Fifa. Then the reasons why England should stage it: 1) their expertise in putting on big football occasions; 2) the big, ambitious legacy project.
As well as Beckham's speech there were two major videos, the first of which charted a young boy's day out at the England v France friendly at Wembley this month. The use of the "through the eyes of a child" perspective is an old favourite – Russia used it too – but this one had a cameo from Rio Ferdinand and did a good job of conveying the Premier League's global appeal.
The second was an English football celebrity-fest: Arsène Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson, Roberto Mancini and Harry Redknapp talking straight to camera. Elton John popped up too as did Steven Gerrard, Michael Essien, Alex, Asamoah Gyan, Wilson Palacios and Gary Lineker. All carefully selected to speak to different parts of the "Fifa family".
Andy Anson covered the technicalities but it was Beckham who delivered the final emotional punch. "My grandfather would have been so proud," Beckham said. "He died a year ago. He was a massive figure in my life. I want to do something for my grandchildren. Working together, working with you in Fifa, just imagine what we can achieve together."
The Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, shuffled on stage to call the presentation "excellent and remarkable". England were one goal up. But not for long.
Impressive. Andrei Arshavin was moved to tears recalling how a football academy had saved him from choosing "the wrong path". Blatter made an inappropriate remark about the looks of double Olympic pole-vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva. That said, there were a lot of attractive Russian women in the promotional videos to catch the eye of the old goats on the ExCo.
Chief executive Alexei Sorokin spoke the flawless English of a KGB undercover agent and his team managed to capture the emotion of what the World Cup would mean to their country. Deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov rambled on a bit. Roman Abramovich appeared on stage but, true to form, did not utter a word. Not that it mattered in the end.
Had its moments, the best of which was a short film in which Guus Hiddink recreated his globe-trotting career through a series of scenes shot in hotel rooms. Famous players included Johan Cruyff, Ruud Gullit, Wesley Sneijder, Romelu Lukaku and Jean-Marie Pfaff but it did feel a bit directionless. A common problem with joint bids.
Hopeless. Had the feel of a pitch by a provincial tourist board. Videos featured hardly any football. Given how many famous players both countries have, there was not one single footballer, current or past, involved. Villar Llona's speech was like that of a reluctant father-of-the-bride culminating in the cheap trick of claiming the ExCo had been "slandered".
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