Magic numbers, bubbly & Brandreth

Every World Cup is preceded by coincidences and mathematical formulas which ‘prove’ one country is destined to win.

My favourite of 2010, brought to my attention by Ulrich Hesse when researching a piece for the next issue of Champions, is that Germany will win the World Cup this summer because of a magic number: 3964.

In 2002, the Brazilians discovered that if you added two of a nation’s World Cup triumphs together you always came up with 3964.

This worked for Brazil (1962 + 2002 = 3964), Argentina (1978 + 1986 = 3964) and Germany (1974 + 1990 = 3964).

But it didn’t work for the selecao in 2006 (even though 1958 + 2006 = 3964), nor for Italy, Uruguay or England (who, according to this theory, blew their chance to win it in 1998 when 1966 + 1998 = 3964).

Germany will hope that the charm does work this summer because 1954 + 2010 = 3964. Bring me the head of Jerome Champagne

Jerome Champagne sounds like a spoof name for one of Lenny Henry ’s parodic 1970s soul singers.

But there’s nothing especially groovy about Champagne who, in photographs, looks like his expression has been curdled by too many meetings.

Until recently, Champagne was the international relations director of FIFA. His abrupt departure from that post has puzzled football’s chattering classes.

FIFA watchers are the new Kremlinologists.

Just as academics once scrutinised speeches for coded messages and studied the line-up of grey leaders waving stiffly at May Day parades for clues as to who was on the way up, FIFA watchers have become expert readers of the runes, interpreters of obscure signs.

And, like Kremlinologists, they never agree.

So Champagne’s exit will, the pundits conclude, make FIFA president Sepp Blatter more powerful.

Or less powerful – if you believe those who suggest Champagne was sacrificed to placate irate confederation bosses or to placate power brokers disturbed by Champagne’s views on rooting out corruption.

Hitherto regarded as a shoo-in to be re-elected as president in 2012, Blatter knows that much depends now on whether his gamble, giving the World Cup to South Africa, pays off.

If the tournament flops – and early ticket sales in such normally fervent countries as Germany are hardly encouraging – it will fuel demand for change at the top.

Champagne’s abrupt exit comes soon after Hans Klaus’s resignation as communications director.

Klaus had been in the job just 19 months and his departure, seven months before the biggest event in FIFA’s calendar, was hardly ideal.

The post has not been filled and it’s a sign of how odd things are in the footballocracy right now that the three biggest communications director roles in football – at FIFA, UEFA and the FA – are all vacant.

Thank god it’s all over

January 2010 was the dullest of transfer windows.

The countdown on Sky Sports News served not to heighten the tension about which mouthwatering deals might still be struck, but to promise relief that we should not have to endure this tedious, unconvincing speculation much longer.

Freddy Adu’s long and winding road to becoming the new Pele has now taken him, on loan, to Aris in Greece, his sixth club in six years.

Steve McClaren has taken a risk at FC Twente by snapping up striker Vagif Javadov, Azerbaijan’s footballer of the year.

Meanwhile, Jerome Rothen, Lucas Neill and Geremi all headed into European football’s last chance saloon, the Turkish league.

Scandal and satire

Watched Sunderland vs Stoke.

I loved Stoke in the early 1970s when, under Tony Waddington, and inspired by Gordon Banks and Jimmy Greenhoff, they beat Chelsea in the 1972 League Cup final.

Rose-tinted nostalgia can lead you astray – and it’s hard to argue with the economic imperative to play in a style that keeps the club in the Premier League – but Stoke are in danger of becoming the Gyles Brandreth of English football, smugly spreading insufferable boredom throughout the land.

Terrygate has baffled the French who find the moral outrage typical of hypocritical Monsieur Rosbif and the News of the World’s old foe Max Mosley has chipped in on behalf of the Chelsea and England skipper.

For me the highlight of le scandale was seeing Lizzie Cundy, the luminous wife of Jason and star of such zeitgeist-defining TV programmes as So Would You Dump Me Now? and Sporting Icon WAGS, gamely defending Terry on the GMTV sofa on the grounds that nobody understood how difficult it was for these young multi-millionaires being hounded 24/7 by scores of beautiful women begging them for sex.

I haven’t been so entertained since English football’s greatest living satirist, Karren Brady, said how “brilliant” it would be if her new club were renamed West Ham Olympic. More to read...

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