World Cup Diary: Sponsors clean up on crowd

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AFTER devoting megabucks to prime-site, hand-painted hoardings, the likes of Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Energiser do not want any rivals spoiling their pitch. So officials scan the crowd before matches to check, according to one of the British people involved, for 'anything that might promote another product or say something abusive or obscene'. This 'crowd cleaning', as it is called, would allow the familiar banner of 'Jesus Saves' to remain; although the jokey 'Jesus Saves - with the Woolwich' would be banned, not for reasons of sacrilege, but purely because it involved a non-affiliated brand.

Belgium's huge 'Albert for President' flag is permitted, but 'Albert for President - of Pepsi plc' would result in a prompt visit from USA '94 lackeys. Such sensitivity emanates from an incident involving South Korea's followers. An impressive banner was raised prior to one kick-off by the Asians and swiftly red-carded when a

Korean-speaking official translated the message which extolled the joys of a hi-fi manufacturer.

AT least the maddening crowd are well tended by organisers. Concerts proliferate - one in LA boasted a range of music from 'Schindler's List' to 'ET', which sounds pretty broad - as do other cultural bun fights. ARTS '94 stages events in each of the nine centres. LA being LA, they have the most varied from a Freeway Mural Programme celebrating football to the 'cup contemporary visual arts exhibition', a 'personal interpretation of the cup theme from sports' trophies to teacups'. One Californian museum is hosting a show about ulama, football's alleged ancestor. An Aztec religious pastime, the ball could be struck only with the hip. 'The ritual concluded with one team forfeiting their lives in religious sacrifice,' the organisers said. It sounds like an early version of sudden death.

WITHIN sniffing distance of the White House, an illicit smell filled the air at the World Cup-organised Ziggy Marley concert attended by Italy and Mexico bands. No one was inhaling of course.

UNLIKE his Norwegian team- mates, Rune Bratseth did not leave America empty-handed. The popular defender spent some of his States-side sojourn collecting World Cup souvenirs for a charity auction. Roberto Baggio not only donated his much-prized No 10 shirt, 'he even gave me his pants', Bratseth said.

MATCH-DAY apparel can prove expensive. But for those unwilling to invest dollars 1500 on the official World Cup 'go to the game in style' leather jacket, the T-shirt option appears the most viable. Supply and demand varies. In Manhattan, Colombian shirts were being given away free on the purchase of two other items. The sacred Saudi T-shirts at dollars 20 disappeared faster than the American Diego Maradona Appreciation

Society.

AFTER only a fortnight the official World Cup poster is beginning to look very out-dated: pictured in pride of place are Maradona, Ruud Gullit, Carlos Valderrama, and Roberto Baggio.

THE bottle of Wild Turkey Bourbon for odd team of the week (World Cup writers) goes to Ken MacAskill of Edinburgh for the following . . .

Filip De (Oscar) Wilde (Belgium); Stephan (Rosamond) Lehman (Switzerland), Paul (John) McGrath (Republic of Ireland), Mike (Robert) Burns (US), Sebastian (Alain) Fournier (Switzerland); John (Richard) Sheridan (Republic of Ireland), Leonel (Al) Alvarez (Colombia), Andy (Sue) Townsend (Republic of Ireland); Gianfranco (Emile) Zola (Italy), Ernie (Mary) Stewart, Joe-Max (Brian) Moore (US).

This week's Bourbon test: a side of World Cup politicians, from any year. Entries to The Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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