Betamax, Best & Buzz

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I have seen the future of football on TV and it is terrifying.

Yes, even scarier than Newcastle's new away kit inspired by Custard Creams, deckchairs and the laudable desire to ensure that Geordies don’t suffer from seasonal affective disorder.

I don’t know if your TV is ready for HD. Mine is unready, probably unwilling and almost certainly unable to offer any definition higher than slightly blurred.

Turns out I needn’t worry because HD will soon be as cutting edge as Betamax. The tellies of tomorrow will show football in 3D!

Jonathan Sim, Sky Sports’ amiable press officer mentioned this last autumn when I visited Fortress Isleworth to interview Graeme Souness.

Not wishing to show my ignorance – did he mean we’d all wear those funny paper glasses in our own homes? – I tried to grunt knowledgeably. A couple of months later, Sky tested the idea on a Liverpool vs Marseille game.   

There are technical obstacles and the usual rows over standards but many sane people in sport and broadcasting seem convinced that in a few years, for the price of a plasma TV, we’ll be able to watch the action in 3D.

This isn’t quite as scary a prospect as it might have been a decade ago.

Watching the menacing amplitude of Neil Ruddock in 3D would have prompted millions to cower behind the sofa as if the Daleks were coming.

As vivid as 3D TV will make football, I have one question: what happens when players spit? Surely broadcasters aren’t prepared for the avalanche of personal injury claims from viewers who irreparably damage neck muscles jerking to avoid flying phlegm.

"LOOK OUT! It's coming right for us..."

Stripping yarns...

Not sure if the Newcastle away strip is the worst ever. See what you think.

I especially like Birmingham City’s splashed blue strip from 1992. It is tempting to see such monstrosities as evidence that the modern game has gone bonkers.

But kit designers have always shown been a bit barmy as this gallery of Victorian football strips richly demonstrates.

The agonising glory of Lubanski...

Jonathan Woodgate’s mum has, according to his tweet, been rediscovering her childhood through YouTube.

I thought I’d have a go at finding the most obscure footballers from my formative years.

Sadly, there was no Paul Cutler – Nuneaton Borough’s answer to George Best (he had the hairstyle and was the hero of our 1966/67 FA Cup run)

But I did find Wlodzimieriz Lubanski, the greatest Polish footballer who scored against England in 1973 and was then crippled – three and a half minutes into this clip – by Roy McFarland.

Despite McFarland’s attempt to use international sign language to suggest that Lubanski was just being an eastern European jesse, the wrecked cruciate ligament sidelined the star for the 1974 World Cup and he had retired when the Poles made the 1982 finals so he never became a household name like Grzegorz Lato and Kazimierz Deyna.

But about 18 years ago, when I was in New Orleans, a young black cab driver started talking to me about soccer.

Once he realised I was English, talk swiftly turned to Bobby Moore and then to Lubanski.

“Lubanski was baaaad,” he declared emphatically, the first time I, in my sheltered existence, had heard the word “bad” inverted to mean good.

I was so taken aback, I never really discovered how a young black taxi driver in New Orleans – he must have been 20 at most – had come to conceive such an intense admiration for a reasonably obscure, if brilliant, Polish footballer.

Football fame works in exceedingly mysterious ways.

Lubanski: "That goal was baaaad"

The Buzz Aldrin question...

Late last week, as the latest issue of Champions was being wrestled into submission, the question was asked: “Should we do a Buzz Aldrin feature in Champions?”

The feature would not, alas, focus on Buzz’s secret life as a long distance supporter of Bristol Rovers, but on the dilemma he faced as he hurtled back to earth in a craft that was almost, as David Bowie said, a tin can: after you’ve been to the moon, what can you possibly do next?

Footballers are luckier than astronauts. There is always another competition to win to help deflect the big question.

But sometimes, it forces itself upon a player. As Michael Parkinson noted, the night of the 1968 European Cup final was the point when, George Best felt, Bacchus replaced Busby as his mentor.

Best could remember the game but not the celebration or the meal that night with his girlfriend. He was only 22, had just won the European Cup and that campaign would win him the European footballer of the year award.

But he never won another significant trophy.

Romario’s fall, after winning USA 94, was less tragic – he just got bored with playing for Barcelona, only rekindling his fire as a club player when he had that 1000 goal target in his sights.

It’s hard to see any of the Barcelona players losing it as spectacularly, or as tragically, as Best but the Buzz Aldrin question will haunt many of them in its own way.

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