El World Cup Diario, Day 21: A day of rest. With Jean-Claude Van Damme

Nick Harper's getting all in a tizz with no World Cup footballery going on to discuss in his World Cup diary...

'The sweat wis lashing oafay Sick Boy; he wis trembling. Ah wis jist sitting thair, focusing oan the telly. He wis bringing me doon. Ah tried tae keep ma attention oan the Jean–Claude Van Damme video.'

On Day 21 of the World Cup, we all felt a bit like Sick Boy from the film Trainspotting. On a day with no football, we all had the sweats and the shakes. This was the comedown after overdosing on so many goals and that Belgium-USA game. No football yesterday. No football today. No football for most of tomorrow? We’ve had our high, now we get the low.

How the hell are we going to get through until 5pm on Friday with no football? Well, we were wondering that, but then Diego Maradona cleared his throat.

Yesterday, the diminutive and possibly deranged Argentinian filled the massive football-free void by offering Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Sepp Blatter (combined age 219) outside for a fight. Kind of.

"Those two [Pele and Beckenbauer], who came out of the museum, come out and talk and say stupid things because they are two idiots," raged the little guy. Their ‘crime’ had been to publically endorse The Suarez Ban, a stance El Diego quite vehemently opposed.

"These two football personalities came out of the sarcophagus and they were told 'Come and talk, defend FIFA because if not this month you will not get paid… they did it most likely because the 'capo' sent them to try and stop the avalanche of injustice that the whole world is talking about."

The Capo being Blatter, another man on Diego’s very lengthy ShitList, which probably includes El Diario for writing this and you for reading it. Why is he so irate so very often, you might wonder. Why? "I go crazy with these people because they defend the indefendible," he raged.

Fair enough, although just to reiterate, for anyone who somehow missed the news: Luis Suarez was banned for nine games and four months for biting an opponent for the third time in just over three years. Completely indefendible to suggest that might be appropriate.

Obviously we say ‘indefensible’ not ‘indefendible’ in the UK, but point that out to El Diego and he’d reach for his air gun. And pedantry aside, thank the good Lord Diego piped up and brightened up a fairly mundane day.

The Secretary of Defense

Much of the morning was spent admiring the hilarious gifs of Tim Howard, the USA goalkeeper who made the most saves in a World Cup match since they first started counting that stat (back in 1966) but still ended up going home.

Still, it wasn't all bad news for the Everton goalkeeper. He went absolutely viral yesterday, cropping up in a variety of Photoshopped images that filled the time and offered proof that the USA has gone loco for these World Cup finals.

First, someone somehow circumvented Wikipedia’s top-level security and turned Howard into the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America. When Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales was alerted to the breach of security, he tweeted: “I do NOT APPROVE of vandalizing Wikipedia for comedic effect, but this is exquisite.”

Then various people began depicting ways the almost unbeatable shot-stopper could have saved pretty much anything if he put his mind to it. A shot of Howard saving the Titanic? Yep. And Bambi. And saving the dinosaurs from that meteor. He was even saving Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder from that man Suarez. Basically anything that at some point in the past has needed saving, Howard was your man.

We could have looked at crudely doctored pictures all day and it wouldn’t have grown tedious. Alright, maybe by mid-morning it would have, but we didn’t get to find out because some hard news dropped with a Clang!

A Hard News clang!

It was FIFA general secretary Jérôme Valcke, who was using this rest day to reflect on the 2014 World Cup and suggest, where necessary, how things might have been done better.

Among his musings, quoted at length and in Portuguese in Brazil’s O Globo, were the following…

That Brazil 2014 has been the best World Cup ever! "The level of football is awesome!" he beamed.

That The Luis Suarez Ban was right and proper. "It was the third time. We have to stop this kind of behaviour," he reasoned.

That the USA is now in line to host another World Cup. "What we see in the United States is staggering. The audience is unprecedented. Even Hulk Hogan gives one nowadays!" he partly said, as a $-shaped lightbulb fizzed above his head.

And the frank admission that FIFA's decision to allow official partner Budweiser to sell their beer inside stadiums might have backfired. "The alcohol level surprised me, many people were drunk," he gasped, clearly having never spent any time in England or an English football ground.

Speaking of drunkards, as we segue awkwardly from one story to the next, in the early hours of Day 21, police in São Paulo were forced to disperse thousands of celebrating Argentina fans using stun grenades and tear gas.

A touch heavy handed, you might suggest, but they had apparently "gotten too rowdy" so needed to be washed away. No arrests were made and absolutely no one got hurt, so in some ways, this possibly never happened.

You might have noticed that Jérôme Valcke dared endorse The Luis Suarez Ban in that previous bit, a stance guaranteed to get him on the wrong side of El Diego. Luckily for Valcke, by this point El D had turned his attention to a supposed job offer from the Venezuela national football team.

"I look for serious projects," he announced. "And I think that yes, if it's with security, then maybe." A few uncertainties still to clear up in all of that, but there’s one absolute: it will all end in tears.

Tears and thieves

Speaking of tears, Liverpool and Barcelona are now officially discussing the fire sale of that man Suarez. That was officially announced yesterday too, for the benefit of those of us too stupid to have seen it coming. That will absolutely end in tears, and apologies, and Luis Suarez saying he’ll never do it again.

And speaking of thieves, as we weren’t then but now are, Fabio Capello has been accused of being one by a Russian politician. “We need to look into his work and ask him to resign,” seethed Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

“But he’s greedy, so of course he won’t. It’s pretty good to get [£6 million a year] for doing nothing. The team lost and it doesn’t affect his pay in any way. Thief!” Zhirinovsky is Russia’s most controversial politician and a man famed for outrageous and wrong-minded outbursts. But this one he seems to have about right.

And here’s some early team news. Robin van Persie walked away from Holland’s training session with a bandage on one of his legs, which could be precautionary or could be a smokescreen ahead of their quarter-final with Costa Rica on Saturday. He also coughed twice as he left, which could mean he has influenza. It’s hard to tell from here.

But look, the good news in all of this space filling and time killing is that in the three minutes it's taken you to read about yesterday, we're now three minutes closer to tomorrow, which is when it all starts again. And my how it starts again! France against Germany at 5pm, and then Brazil against Colombia as night falls.

Of course the bad news in all of this is that after 56 mostly magnificent games, we've only got eight left before this is all over and the serious hangover kicks in. Actually, seven games if you consider that one of those is the pointless 3rd/4th place play-off. Seven games?! That’s all.

So let’s not wish these rest days away quite so fast. Let’s just kick back and enjoy this relative calm before it all kicks off again tomorrow.

Happy Day 22 everybody.


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