Old football boots, hospitals and the Fifa vote

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The Independent Online

The time is rapidly approaching when boys and girls will be dragging their mothers off to buy new football boots for next season. It's much more complicated than it used to be and no doubt many parents will feel scandalously ripped off by what they have to fork out.

The time is rapidly approaching when boys and girls will be dragging their mothers off to buy new football boots for next season. It's much more complicated than it used to be and no doubt many parents will feel scandalously ripped off by what they have to fork out.

When I was a small boy the choice was very limited. You could have a pair of the new adidas softer shoes with the three stripes, or a pair of the old style tough leather high-ankle efforts. You felt every nail from every stud with those, and you needed a whole lorry-load of Dubbin to prevent the Stanley Mortensen Toepunter Mark II rubbing your feet red raw.

I must ring Selfridges and tell them I may be a little late to collect my order this year, having been unfortunately hospitalised just as Euro 2000 was reaching a climax. A word of advice here: If you're going to get ill make sure you do it in midweek, as hospitals at weekends are the pits.

By the end of the week I was in some very experienced caring hands, but for several days I found myself empathising with Norman Stanley Fletcher as I lay in bed with no discernible purpose to my long day. "Fetch me a Sun, oh, and something to read, please." I don't know which is more devastating about being in a hospital ward, the worry about your prognosis or the complete and utter isolation from the outside world. Mobile phones are banned because they are liable to cause total meltdown and the pay phones are inaccessible.

I started requesting help to make a phone call on my second afternoon and it culminated in foot-stamping at two o'clock the next morning.

"They'll be fast asleep," said Little Miss Bossyboots. "That's not for you to say," I tried to reason. Then, as a last resort, I added: "Even a mass murderer is allowed one phone call."

"Not at two o'clock in the morning," smirked LMB, in the manner of Alf Garnett's wife, on the rare occasions she succeeded in putting down the irascible old bigot. Why is it that when you gently advise someone they are being unreasonable, they never take the point?

I wouldn't mind but by mid-evening I had been advised by a nurse just going off duty to call the night staff after she, herself, had gone home. Another thing about wards, you can't avoid overhearing other people's conversations.

"That lady's gone, she used to stare at me," said one old lady opposite.

"Yes I spoke to her. She told me you stared at her," replied another.

"No!! She stared at me."

It took me a day to understand why so many comedies are set in hospitals. The nurses always ask at the tops of their voices whether you've been to the toilet. The escape committee granted my transfer request and now I'm recuperating in a nice clinic run by a Mrs Jacques.

It's going to cost me an arm and a leg. Fortunately, I'm not using the arm very much at the moment anyway. However, it didn't help much that I had about a hundred messages from journos 'seeking background' on the 2006 vote. Were the sad so-and-sos not aware that I had devoted two whole chapters of my book to the subject last year?

Of course there was never any gentleman's agreement with Germany. I raised the question of the World Cup bid with the executive committee of the Football Association several times over the years. Sir Bert Millichip, in the chair, would surely have informed the committee of any deal proposed to him by Germany or Uefa, but he never said anything.

One of the problems facing the England bid team in the early days of the campaign was the lack of English representation at Fifa. When we supported Sepp Blatter for the presidency we managed to gain five places on various Fifa committees and it was a desperate attempt to place Millichip's successor, Keith Wiseman, on the Fifa committee which set in train the events which led to my watching the closing dramas of Euro 2000 and the Fifa vote on television rather than in person. At least I've had access to a TV during my recent travails.

We were told by those who purport to be on the inside track that South Africa had outflanked the opposition by making a deal with Brazil. The South Africans should first have checked whether Brazil were capable of delivering all three South American votes.

Julio Grondona, the powerful president of the Argentine FA, has become increasingly distrustful of the Uefa/Africa 'co-operation agreement' of 1997, feeling that South America was being marginalised. His acquiescence could never have been guaranteed.

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