Robin Scott-Elliot: Carlisle and Bonnaire both winners in war of words
View From The Sofa: Six Nations/Premier League Football/Countdown, BBC/Sky/Channel 4
Monday 01 March 2010
Sex, or consonant, vowel, consonant as Clarke Carlisle would put it, and footballers are natural bedfellows. When it comes to copulation – 10 letters, Jeff – footballers know their onions, although not as well as the French know their onions if there's any truth in the stereotype. Which is what this week's all about, with the exception of Carlisle – the Burnley footballer, not the town in Cumbria.
Somewhere deep inside all Britons is the "speak slowly and with increasing volume at dim-witted (ie all) foreigners" gene. No matter how suppressed it is, there are occasions when it can't be controlled, usually when confronted by a sweaty Frenchman.
Julien Bonnaire was man of the match against Wales on Friday and so moments after the end of the game he found himself being interviewed live on BBC One. He cautioned the reporter as to his lack of English, but to no effect apart from the questions being repeated as per the above. Bonnaire shrugged, setting the onions hanging around his neck swinging dangerously, adjusted his beret, announced he would answer the question in French and did. Back to the studio we went with everyone studiously ignoring this victory for the Académie française.
Droit de seigneur, to borrow from the Académie, appears to be the model on which John Terry bases his captaincy at Chelsea. On Saturday at Stamford Bridge, Sky didn't seem to know how much they should try and ignore the fall-out from the skipper invoking his ancient rights. They obviously wanted to pretend Handshakegate was not happening, for Sky do like everything to be all shiny and happy and full of goals when it comes to the Premier League. But they couldn't, and after a week in which we'd heard from Terry's people and Bridge's camp we finally got to see the two protagonists come face-to-face, or ear-to-ear as they didn't actually look at each other.
As it happened, they were both upstaged by Craig Bellamy anyway, who grasped Terry's hand in the line-up and stared the other way, his face fixed in a snarl of utter contempt but all the same looking as if he was thoroughly enjoying the whole occasion.
Bellamy has morphed into a dottily expressive stereotype of himself but Terry has become the representative of all that is rotten, the arch pantomime villain amid the voyeuristic delight that is English football today. It is relentlessly entertaining on and off the pitch and Stamford Bridge on Saturday was the perfect example; an over-hyped soap-opera moment followed by an unpredictable romp of a match.
Unpredictable romps are not really Countdown's thing, although you have to keep a wary eye on Dictionary Corner come the Christmas Party apparently. On Wednesday it was Adam, who likes Star Trek and wants to meet Jeremy Clarkson, against Clarke, who lives in Ripponden and is a professional footballer.
Carlisle looked more anxious than a new signing at Chelsea being asked by the captain if he has a partner, but he was soon into his articulate stride, fitting snugly into what may well be the politest programme on TV with more please-and-thank-yous than you could shake a Bellamy fist at.
A demonic, inane and revels later and he had won, a result accepted with a smile of genuine delight. Then it was time for Deal or No Deal, the story of a gifted young footballer who has to battle to get the contract he deserves. It will in all probability end in tears, but that could be down to the onions.
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