Neymar a soy boy, Diego Maradona a joke and no to female commentators: A very gammon view of the World Cup 2018

Agree with any of the below points? Then unfortunately you too are most likely a gammon

Luke Brown
Friday 06 July 2018 16:39
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World Cup: Maradona swears after Argentina scores

In 1928, Jules Rimet had a dream. “My grandfather was a humanist and idealist, who believed that sport could unite the world,” his grandson, Yves Rimet, told The Independent in 2006. “Unlike many others in his time, he realised that, to be truly democratic, to truly engage the masses, international sport must be professional.” And so the idea of the Fifa World Cup was first born.

It turned out to be a fairly good idea in the end, didn’t it? The 21st tournament has arguably been the best yet: a true feast of fast-paced attacking play with some genuinely shocking upsets, that has possibly even reinstated international football as the pinnacle of the game. If big Jules is looking down from the great crystal Fifa palace in the sky, he would surely be a very proud man indeed.

For so many it has been the perfect tournament at the start of a potentially perfect summer. Particularly in Blighty, where Gareth Southgate’s band of eminently likeable lads have already exceeded expectations. But we do not yet live in the perfect world. And despite all of the brilliant goals, nail-biting VAR decisions and laudable shithousery (we’re looking at you, Colombia) there are still those who would rather moan about something — anything — than join in indiscriminately yelling ‘IT’S COMING HOME!’ with the rest of us.

These people have a collective name: The Gammon. And unfortunately, they walk among us.

Believe it or not, not everybody has been enjoying the innocent pleasures of the 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia™. Where one person sees an all-time football legend celebrate a sublime goal by his anointed heir, another sees a washed-up old joke who needs to rein it in. And where one sees England — England — win a knockout match on penalty kicks, another sees Raheem Sterling, and a frankly unacceptable 86.4% pass completion rate.

For all of the many, many unforgettable moments this World Cup has provided us with, there has also been a lot of Gammon reaction, which deserves to be exposed. It’s what Jules would have wanted, after all.

The World Cup wall of gammon

1. Neymar is an attention seeking soy boy

Typical gammon take:

“Joking aside, Neymar for me represents everything that is wrong with football: pointless showboating, disrespect, diving, selfishness, pursuit of money, attention-seeking, hurting your team but pleasing the masses with a piece of skill, lack of professionalism—everything.”

Neymar has a beautiful head of hair and appears to take great enjoyment in cutting, colouring and coiffing it in the hours ahead of kick-off. In case you have failed to notice, he is also rather good at football, regularly tormenting his cookie-cutter opponents with tricks including the ball roll chop, lollipop and rainbow flick. And let’s not ignore that — on ocassion — he has also been known to exaggerate contact, partaking in a few theatrical rolls across the turf after being hacked down for the 3874th time in a match.

Neymar: Not a gammon

In short: Neymar is exactly the kind of footballer that your Brexit-voting, Coldplay-listening, Head On: Ian Botham The Autobiography-reading Dad absolutely loves to hate.

It seems to annoy a great many gammons that Neymar is such a good player, both for Paris Saint-Germain and when playing for his national team under an asphyxiating amount of pressure. Bizarrely, it seems to annoy a great many more that he is not good enough: holding him to the impossibly high standard of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and then revelling in his failure to maintain such greatness.

The poor lad can’t win. Yes he’s the most expensive player in the world and, yes, he loves a bit of playacting. He’s also created the most clear goalscoring chances and attempted the most dribbles of any player in Russia. Now can we please all just enjoy him before Brazil balls it up to France in the semis.

2. Diego Maradona needs to SIT DOWN and SHUT UP

Typical gammon take:

“Maradona get over the Falklands, you are the biggest cheat ever in World Cup history. You’re a fat disgrace and we’re all laughing at you.”

Also: Peter Shilton’s Twitter timeline. It was 32 years ago mate, get over it.

Look, perhaps we have all just reached the point where we – the collective global community – should really try and come to terms with the fact that Diego Armando Maradona Franco is man who likes a good time. He really, really likes a good time.

Diego Maradona: Not a gammon

True to form, Diego had a Very Good Time during Argentina’s group stage match against Nigeria. He danced with a fan. He flipped off a load of foreigners. He celebrated Lionel Messi’s sumptuous opener by standing proudly in the cruciform pose in an ill-fitting Puma tee, as his mates/minders/acolytes fell at his feet. And, yes, he ended the match barely able to stand, requiring treatment from Russian paramedics and a trip to the local hospital.

Was it comical? Yes. Was it all a bit sad? You bet. But the slew of sanctimony that followed was worse. Maradona was and is a genius, a man who didn’t so much as shoulder the burden of a nation as eagerly climb atop it so that he better bask in the limelight. He’s not — and never will be — somebody to be looked down upon. A flawed genius perhaps, but a genius all the same despite your protestations otherwise, Dave, 46 from Bognor Regis.

3. Those Senegal lads are full of energy but not very organised!

Typical gammon take:

“This Senegal side could run for days but they’re going to struggle when they come up against a team with some proper tactical nous. Mind you they’ll do well against the Japanese because that bunch absolutely hate putting a foot in.”

Oh, SurAlun. You were supposed to be different. A working class kid from Hackney done well. A billionaire businessman with Third Way political principals. A presenter of The Apprentice that didn’t believe in hanging out with dictators, inciting the far-right and incarcerating innocent children.

Lord Sugar: Gammon

But then Lord Sugar caught a glimpse of the Senegal national football team and thought: ‘I know! My 5.47m followers absolutely love my no-nonsense patter and tells-it-as-it-is sense of humour. So they will sure as hell lap up a wisecrack comparing this lot with the poor geezers who sell snide sunnies and handbags in shitholes like Magaluf. Ho ho!’ Except they didn’t. Obviously.

The inevitable Twitter pile-on that followed was both brutal and righteous, with Sugar almost instantaneously proclaimed ‘cancelled’. Thank goodness for that. Although he kept his peership. And his billions. And his tedious television show.

Literally could not be anymore Gammon

So far so smoked gammon, but Sugar wasn't the only one to put his foot in it when it came to the Senegal team. And, in its own nasty little way, the subtle prejudice that was doled out during the group stage was just as bad as the shameless stuff. You know the drill: that African teams are always strong, fast and powerful but — for some reason — lacking in skill and mental process. Never mind that Aliou Cissé had his team playing slick, cerebral football, built around Idrissa Gueye and Alfred N’Diaye’s wonderful midfield partnership. No, teams like Senegal are only good for running.

Naturally, the pre-match pundits that perceptively noted Senegal needed to rely on their “pace and power” in their opening match against Poland proved a long way wide of the mark. Ditto South Korea: who were identified as being “not very physical” by the very same talking heads only to rival Colombia in the undiluted shithouse stakes. Language like this is reductive and sinister and needs to do one.

4. It’s coming home – in spite of Raheem Sterling’s best efforts

Typical gammon take:

“Here’s an idea: Stick a big X across that assault rifle tattoo & the words ‘NO TO GUNS’. Then it works how I presume you intended it to work. At the moment, it looks like you’re glamourising gun use.”

Here we go. The ultimate gammon talking point. The heritage gammon talking point. The Marks and Spencers 2 dine in for £10 gammon talking point.

You're already well-briefed on this one of course. Unless you live under a rock, or only choose to read one thing on the internet all year and have regrettably stumbled upon this page. A certain section of our society absolutely loves to hate Raheem Sterling. Why? Well he spends too much money, for one thing. He also sometimes doesn’t spend enough. And then there’s that horrific tattoo of a firearm on his leg. Oh, and he’s black.

Raheem Sterling: Not a gammon

Is there a genuine footballing debate to be had over the place of Sterling in Southgate’s starting XI ahead of the Sweden quarter-final? Perhaps. But the gammon hit-pieces very rarely seem to focus on the football. Instead the frequent criticism takes aim at how a young black man with money chooses to live his life, largely by the same crop of newspapers and section of society that steadfastly refuse and even endorse the wealth collection and behaviour of the white middle class.

There’s far, far more going on here than a few vocal critics simply believing that England’s World Cup chances would be boosted by dropping Sterling for Jamie Vardy, or somebody. See also: Pogba, Paul.

5. Not in my commentary box: women are to be seen and not heard

Typical gammon take:

“I found it a tough listen. I prefer to hear a male voice. For 90 minutes listening to a high-pitched tone isn’t what I want to hear. When there’s a moment of drama, which there often is in football, I think that moment needs to be done with a slightly lower voice.”

It takes some serious ham-jowled effrontery to make Piers Morgan look reasonable, and yet former football and talkSPORT bore Jason Cundy made a pretty good go of it when he moaned that he found female football commentators too “high-pitched” and a “tough listen”.

Jason Cundy in his playing days: Quite possibly a gammon

He wasn’t the only one. Vicki Sparks’ first ever live World Cup commentary went without a hitch and yet saw the reporter become an immediate target for trolls online. Analysts Alex Scott and Eni Aluko suffered much the same.

Of course, the sort of blokes who while away their fruitful hours moaning about women refusing to hate football on their two bob Twitter accounts always maintain that their problem isn’t actually Women — but one particular woman. Which — if true — must be awfully frustrating. So the question you have to ask yourself is this: Is the anonymous Twitter wonk sprouting off about Sparks a man who has spent his life actually attempting to be a feminist ally, prepared to listen, learn and challenge his own unconscious assumptions in an attempt to dismantle the patriarchy? Or is he, you know, a lonely sexist troll? Answers on a slice of gammon, please.

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