Miles Kington: The gods are talking football in their debating chamber

Jove said he would, as per usual, put 10 obols on the Italian team to win. There had been no football in the great days of the Roman gods
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The Independent Online

It's high time we paid another visit to the United Deities, to see what the gods are talking about in their eternal debating chamber upstairs. The last time we went to eavesdrop on them, they were picking "The Da Vinci Code" to bits. What on earth will they be preoccupied with this time? Well, let's consult the most recent minutes.

1. The chairgod said that the next item on the agenda was the World Cup 2006. The god who had put down the motion wanted to know if any of his fellow gods had any comment on this quadrennial outburst of friendly internationalism. Did they see it as a hopeful sign of human amity? Or as a retrograde step?

2. Did they indeed have any tips as to who might win the Final?

3. Or were they completely resistant to the charms of football on earth like himself, added the chairgod, and would they prefer to move straight on to the next item on the agenda, namely, the teething troubles in the new computer system for prayer-answering?

4. Jove said he would, as per usual, put 10 obols on the Italian team to win. There had been no football in the great days of the Roman gods, but he thought it preserved the spirit of the old Coliseum games.

5. The Catholic god said he would like to put 10 obols on Italy as well.

6. A Burmese animist spirit who said he was new to these meetings pointed out that he did not see how gods could place bets at all. Being omniscient meant you knew the results already.

7. The chairgod explained that it had long ago been agreed by common assent among the gods that omniscience should be forfeited and foregone when they were in company together, as otherwise conversation would be almost impossible. If every god knew everything, there was no point discussing it. It was speculation and opinion that gave conversation its flavour.

8. There was nothing more boring than certainty.

9. So they had banned omniscience in a social setting.

10. The Burmese spirit said he was sorry. He did not know that.

11. So much for omniscience, said Loki, the Norse god of mischief. There was some laughter. Now perhaps the little lad from Burma would like to creep back into his fetid jungle, and they could get on with the discussion of the World Cup.

12. The chairgod expressed surprise at Loki's sudden interest in sport. He had not thought of Loki as a sporting type.

13. Zeus reminded him that Loki was often employed as the heavenly bookmaker, and this time again he was indeed taking all the bets on the World Cup, so naturally he was interested in whipping up interest in the event, to get business going.

14. Which reminded Zeus, said Zeus, that he, Zeus, would like to put 20 obols on the Greek team to win.

15. Loki it said it was noted.

16. Jove said the Greek team did not have a chance in hell, if Pluto would forgive the expression.

17. Zeus said that everyone had said the same before Euro 2004, and the Greeks had surprised everyone by winning the contest back then, and he himself had scooped a conch full of obols, so what was to stop Greece winning again?

18. One simple thing, said Jove. Greece had not qualified. They had already been knocked out in the qualifiers.

19. Putrefying pomegranates, said Zeus. That was the trouble with agreeing to suspend omniscience. You made elementary mistakes. He would like to withdraw his bet from Loki.

20. Loki said it was too late. A bet made was a bet laid. That was 20 obols down the River Styx.

21. An ancient Germanic god said that he wanted to put 20 obols on the German team to win. The only reason that Greece had ever won the Euro 2004 was that they had a German manager. So did Germany now. So, come to that, did the Catholic Church have a new German manager, or Pope, or whatever he was called.

22. There was immediate protest from the Catholic god.

23. The chairgod called for order.

More of this tomorrow, I hope.

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