Sport on TV: Maradona looks like a saint next to Tanya and co

'I don't think it's cheating. It's cunning, or cheekiness. It's a craftiness' CHRIS MAUME
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The Independent Online

Kenny Sansom and Sir Bobby Robson still banging on about the Hand of God 20 years after the event is slightly different; they come from an era when Englishmen supposedly didn't break the rules - apart from the competition between those expert divers Frannie Lee and Rodney Marsh in the late 1960s to see whose dives could procure the most penalties in a season.

But I wonder: what if Sansom, the England left-back that day in the Azteca, had been the last line of defence when the wee man perpetrated his manual calumny, and had managed to clear the ball off the line - but known only to him, the ball had actually sneaked over for a goal. Would he have coughed up or kept schtum? I wonder.

They had their say in When Lineker Met Maradona (BBC1, Tuesday), which opened nicely with Peter Tosh singing "Sinner man, where you gonna run to?" Sitting by his mum's swimming pool, Diego explained his moral position to Gary Lineker.

"I don't think it's cheating. It's cunning, cheekiness. I had scored goals with my hand before in Argentina. I believe it's a craftiness. Maybe we have more of it in South America than in Europe. But I don't think it's cheating."

The film's overwhelming impression was how fantastic Maradona looked, bright-eyed and clear-skinned, especially compared to a year ago, after his heart attacks and before he had his stomach stapled and lost nearly eight-and-a-half stone (before that, he said, he would have two pizzas to himself while watching a game). "I ought to thank the guy upstairs," he told Lineker. "The Beard, I call him."

There were several bellies bigger than pre-op Diego on display at the Madejski Stadium for the unfeasibly entertaining England v Germany: The Legends charity match (Five, Wednesday), especially Boris Johnson's - and Matthew Le Tissier. Richard Ashcroft's wasn't one of them, though. The rangy former Verve singer, one of the celebs joining the likes of Ray Wilkins and Chris Waddle for a game against Lothar Matthäus and a bunch of German ex-pros, singers and soap stars, said he was happy to be the first England international to take to the field chewing nicotine gum.

He was one of the better known: even the England XI manager, Peter Reid, had heard of him. In fact, Five's pitchside interviewer Mark Chappell revealed, he'd collared the singer before the game and informed him, "I love that song, 'The Drugs Aren't Very Good'."

The football was rubbish, of course, especially Lee Sharpe, but there was a certain vicarious fascination at seeing how the civilians fared. Imagine: a tiny amount of singing or acting talent and that could have been you or me up there, chewing Nicorettes and nutmegging minor German celebrities.

Finally, forget McClaren madness, forget metatarsal mayhem: the really big news this week - in trash-telly land at least - was the apocalyptic axing of Footballers Wives. What, no more Tanya? Life suddenly seems slightly less worth living.

Ah, the memories: Nurse Dunkley ravishing chairman Frank (he was in a coma after being whacked on the head by Tanya); Chardonnay's unfortunate cleavage conflagration, which put paid to her Page Three days; white Tanya swapping babies with Indian Amber, then slapping on the fake tan to disguise the switch; Kyle and Chardonnay's Snow White-themed, dwarf-dominated wedding; ball-buster Hazel's excoriating speech to the roasters in her squad after she'd taken over from Frank...

Following the end-of-series-five cliffhanger a few weeks ago, we'll never know if the coke Tanya was about to snort had indeed been cut with strychnine by Hazel's homicidal successor, Garry (she was blackmailing him after he'd thrown Webbsy the manager down a liftshaft).

Personally, I think she did, only to survive, stronger than ever. Immortal in fact - like Wives itself, which will live forever in our hearts and minds - and (I'm thinking of Tanya, obviously) down the front of our trousers. Well, my trousers.

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