PAINTED INTO A CORNER
A German animal welfare group has asked fans not to paint their pets. The plea comes after a stolen Maltese terrier called Simba was found decorated in the national colours: black, red and gold. The group, European Animal and Nature Protection, suggests that supporters might like to dress their pets in an appropriate strip instead. "No one needs to torture his dog by thoughtlessly painting it out of justified enthusiasm," Norbert Günster, of the group, said.
ABSTINENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER
The manager of Ukraine, Oleg Blokhin, has entered the controversy about whether to let players have sex during the tournament (England are among those taking a vow of celibacy). If his team make it to the semi-finals, they can see their wives. Indeed, they'll be made to: "Those who don't feel like it, I'll just drag to their wives."
In Dubai, 3,000 spectators will watch the tournament from a World Cup Fan Park, featuring the largest television screen in the Middle East. Between matches they will be able to enjoy a variety of activities, from human table football, with teams strapped to poles and unable to move backwards or forwards, to face-painting.
MEN IN BLACK
If there is a blizzard of red and yellow cards in this year's tournament, look on the bright side. Every fine paid by players will go to SOS Children, a charity that builds villages in disaster-hit countries. For the first time, each team of referee and two assistants (linesmen) will come from the same country and speak the same language. They will be connected together and to a fourth official, watching via television, by radio headsets. The only English referee is Graham Poll.
An early front-runner in the World Cup of Coiffure is Danijel Ljuboja of Serbia and Montenegro. He favours a skunk-style white stripe, in a manner tried and discarded by Djibril Cissé of France, whose follicles have more recently been carved into a homage to Hampton Court's maze. Meanwhile, feverish attention is being paid to the "do" to be adopted by David Beckham for England's opening match against Paraguay. Bookmakers are taking bets on styles including bald, mullet and dreadlocks. Another option is that he will have the name of at least one of his children spelt out on his head.
PRIDE OF GERMANY
The company producing this year's World Cup mascot has gone bust. Nici of Bavaria paid £19m for a licence to market "Goleo", a footballing lion, in Germany. But the fluffy animal did not appeal to German fans, whose emblem is an eagle. What's more, they were perturbed by the fact that Goleo wears a number six shirt, but no shorts.
Team nicknames in Germany range from the frankly dull ("The blues" , "Blue and Yellow", "Orange") to the slightly more exciting, with the African nations once again displaying some flair. Angola's "Black Antelopes" win out over Ivory Coast's "The Elephants". It's just a pity that the Central African Republic's " The Low-Ubangui Fawns" didn't make it this time. Meanwhile, the USA, officially known as MNT ("Men's National Team") are suffering severe nickname-envy. Fan suggestions include "The Young Guns", "The Bald Eagles" and "The Gringos". They'll be sticking with MNT.
Switzerland have something to prove in the current tournament. They are the only team never to have won a game against any of the other participants.
The World Cup is expected to be followed by more people in the US than ever before, although many of them will be immigrants from more civilised nations. Jamie Trecker of Fox TV offered this explanation to help the indigenous population understand the offside rule: "It is considered unsporting to stand down at one end of the field and just wait for the ball to be lobbed to you to shoot on goal. So, it's not legal in the game. The guys with big flags on the sidelines make sure a forward isn't cheating, and when they put the flags up, it means the play is dead."
The shortest player in the World Cup is Christian Lara of Ecuador, at a towering 5ft 4in. It is to be hoped that he doesn't find himself trying to mark Jan Koller of Serbia and Montenegro, who is one of three 6ft 8in players. Koller is also the heaviest player in the tournament at 15st 10lb. We all know the youngest player; the oldest is the Tunisian goalkeeper Ali Boumnijel, who is 40.
WATCH THIS SPACE
In what may have been an attempt to re-establish their tarnished reputation for machine-like efficiency, the German team were sent to a watch-repairing class as part of their training. Manager Olivier Bierhoff explained that it was intended to achieve coach Jürgen Klinsmann's objective of having the team "cog together".
The World Cup has brought an economic boom to the city of Sialkot in Pakistan, where 85 per cent of the world's footballs are made. So far 55.8 million have been exported in connection with the tournament.
VERY VERY TASTY
The official sausage of the World Cup is produced by Reinert, under the Snäkx label. It is spherical.
WHAT A SHOWER
The key World Cup accessory this year is the waterproof widescreen television. The sets, starting at around £1,500, are available from a number of British suppliers, which have found a vast untapped market among those forced to take a shower during a penalty shoot-out.
A giant brothel in Cologne has adorned one side of its seven-storey building with a banner featuring a blonde hoisting up her bra and the slogan, Die Welt zu Gast bei Freundinnen, which loosely translates as, "A time to make girlfriends", a play on the official slogan, "A time to make friends". The brothel, Pascha, also flew the flags of all the competing nations - until a dozen masked men made it remove Saudi and Iranian emblems. The brothel, the largest in Europe, is famous for its money-back guarantee.
A pair of giant football boots have been erected in Berlin as part of a "walk of ideas", celebrating the replacement of the traditional hobnail by the modern carpet slipper, credited to the Dassler brothers, founders of Adidas and Puma. Other big ideas include the motor car and Einstein's theory of relativity. Meanwhile, at Europa-Park, near Freiburg, they have a 120ft football.
Beate Uhse, the German equivalent of Ann Summers, has created a range of six "sporty vibrators", emblazoned with descriptions that include "Team Captain" and "Home Player". According to Der Spiegel, they do indeed look "sporty": "So much so that one can imagine them going for a jog if left alone." More controversially, the company has also produced a range loosely named after famous players, including a David B.
Ernst-Adolf Hinrichs, a retired perfume maker in Holzminden, Germany, has produced a smell for each country, intended to evoke its national identity. For Germany, he rejected sauerkraut as too unpleasant before settling on freshly baked bread. Holland got cheese, Italy pizza, the USA Coca-Cola and Sweden... flat-pack furniture. England will be represented by the distinctive scent of the After Eight mint. An attempt to create the smell of an entire stadium - based on beer, Coke, sausage, mustard, chips, lemonade, grass, embrocation and sweat - was abandoned as too powerful.
Every nation has its own footballing insults. If you listen carefully, you may hear German fans telling the referee that he has "Tomaten auf den Augen" (tomatoes on the eyes) or questioning a player's manhood by calling him a "Weichei"(soft egg) or a "Warmduscher" (someone who showers only in hot water). And if everything goes wrong for the Germans, expect to hear complaints that they have drawn an " Arschkarte" (arse card). This is what Germans called the referee's red card when it was kept in the hip pocket.
A World Cup voodoo doll has gone on sale in Germany. The FooTooKit includes stick-on emblems so you can dress the doll in the national colours of your choice, and a set of five needles. It's a snip at €14.95, but be warned: it comes with no guarantee.
Referees from Germany's football association have been recruited for an important job during the tournament. They are being employed to sit alongside the pitch and watch out for streakers. Barriers have been installed at nine out of the 12 World Cup venues to prevent naked pitch invasions, which have embarrassed the national football authorities on previous big occasions.
The coaches ferrying teams around Germany each carry a slogan, devised by fans. They include "Light up your Samurai spirit!" (Japan), " Never-ending legend, united Korea!" (South Korea), "White and red, dangerous and brave" (Poland), "Fight! Show spirit! Come on! You have the support of everyone" (Sweden), "Vehicle monitored by 180 million Brazilian hearts" (Brazil), and, for Switzerland, the unforgettable "2006, it's Swiss o'clock".
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