The Diary: Model players flick off

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The Independent Online
COMPETITORS at the World Cup in America are a rum bunch. A honeymooning Austrian air-conditioning salesman, a reptile-loving Dutch baker, an unstoppable Athens cabbie and England's pride - a warehouse supervisor from Bristol. Of course, it's the VII Subbuteo World Cup, which flicks off in Chicago today, and, judging by previous tournaments, will be more exciting than the real thing.

Particularly this year. For the first time, referees are packing red and yellow cards to penalise heinous crimes such as moving an opponent's players, time-wasting and abuse. Manchester's Bill Glover hopes to keep 'the game flowing' today but 'if necessary' will penalise errant flickers by putting their nearest player back in the box. Sadly, Glover's compatriot, England's top flicker, Darren Clark, has been touched by ill-fortune. The Avon man has succumbed to Subbuteo's version of the groin strain - a broken nail on his index finger.

TALKING of men of the cloth, when the Helping Hand of God, aka Rev Andrew Wingfield Digby, was rejected by Ray Illingworth, the cricketing press rushed to the phones to elicit some reaction from Wingers Diggers' Christians in Sport colleagues, one of whom spent a goodly time trying to convert his inquisitor. Having failed to persuade his caller on to the true path, he signed off with 'OK, but I will pray for your wife'.

DIVINE intervention was at work in the first Test. 'At tea on the fourth day New Zealand were 123 for 4, following England's declaration earlier that day at 567 for 8,' notes David Piper, from Leicester.

AT the Stella Artois jamboree another chapter was added to that Great Tennis Mystery: why Americans call Wimbledon Wimpleton. After talking to an Oregon- based Nike official about Pete Sampras's exotic new garb, a British reporter enquired: 'Why do you Americans insist on calling it Wimpleton?' 'Well you English wrongly pronounce Nike with a final 'E',' Mr Nike replied. '15-all'.

THERE is something of the A E J Collins in B C Lara. Like Lara, the Clifton College schoolboy was the model of modesty when questioned about his unbeaten 628 in 1899, a record knock that brought him 'presents from all parts', according to 'A Season's Fame' by Clifton's archivist, Derek Winterbottom. But Collins pips Lara to the oddest eulogy: a Latin poem translated as: 'Boy, glorious in your recent brilliance; this is the way to the stars; the fields, the constellations and the very Age itself will sing of you'.

JUST when you thought you were safe: an unofficial England World Cup single pops up. 'Can We Kick It (No We Can't])' - with a chorus of 'We're not going to the USA; we didn't want to go there anyway' - is sung by Wall of Orange. A poignant reminder of what England ran into.


THE bottle of Wild Turkey Bourbon for odd team of the week (sports or newscasters) goes to Dave Shephard, of Somerton, for the following XI ('drawn from 11 different sports'):

D M (Nigel Starmer) Smith (Sussex and Rugby Union); P (Brian) Johnson (Notts and Cricket); R M F (Mark) Cox (Hants and Tennis); R O (Ron) Jones (Glamorgan and Football); P N (Alan) Weekes (Middlesex and Ice Skating); B N (Ray) French (Notts and Rugby League); N A (Brendan) Foster (Yorkshire and Athletics); D J (John) Spencer (Kent and Snooker); R C (Dorian) Williams (Gloucestershire and Show Jumping); M (Barry) Davies (Gloucestershire and Hockey); A (Murray) Walker (Durham and Motor Racing).'

This week's Bourbon test: a side of footballing musicians. Entries: Sports Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.