Matthew Monk

Matthew Monk is a school teacher from the UK who has the World Cup as one of his greatest passions. He will share his views about the past, present and future of this event.

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Smile please

    Well, I think I have already had my favourite moment of the World Cup. I don't want to seem obsessed with Sepp Blatter, but the sight of the Protégé being roundly booed by 60 000 people in Seoul's impressive new stadium is going to take a lot of beating.

    The opening ceremony of the World Cup is often as dreary as the first match - all gymnastics, dancing and dull speeches. Now this year's version was not exactly scintillating, but how often do you get to see a pompous Executive look shifty while thousands boo every word he says?

    I love the look he had in his eyes as the booing started. Just seconds before he had stood before the world as the ultimate victor. He was so proud; this was the pinnacle of his career, his life. 'Look at me' he said, standing expectantly for the applause.

    He fiddles with the microphone, then blows into it. Unfortunately he doesn't say 'testing, testing' and tap his fingers on it to make sure it's working. But his eyes say it all: the look, the stare. He is embarrassed, hurt, angry. He tries to smile and pulls the microphone closer. In the background, still slightly in shot sits the Big Man, relegated to the second row these days, but still strategically placed behind the FIFA President, like the power behind the throne.

    What must he be thinking? Imagine if this had happened in Argentina or Spain - Joâo would have had his old friend Carlos Lacoste shoot them all. But today he just sits there, quietly happy that his Protégé is suffering. Just like an elephant, the Big Man never forgets. Sepp went to see UEFA once and promised to get rid of his boss, if they let him take over. UEFA said no and Havelange went anyway, but he never forgave Sepp properly. That's what you get when you stab me in the back, my friend.

    Valiantly, Sepp tried to carry on, but everything was going wrong now. He could hear his own fractured English booming around the massive sound system - every time he read out a sentence, he hesitated, almost as if he was listening to what he had just said. But even then you could hear the booing.

    Finally he bit. "Fair play please" he said, uttering the FIFA slogan as much for his own benefit as for the tournament. Up on screen popped old Charlie Dempsey from Oceania - he looked to be booing, or maybe it was just his dentures falling out? Sat behind, Franz Beckenbauer tried to look stoic, but even he seemed to be stifling a smile. Many around him - Executives all - could not resist. If only we could have seen Lennart Johansson or Issa Hayatou: they must have been turning cartwheels of delight.

    As he carried on he looked as defeated as he ever has, forcing each convoluted statement out. His eyes darted from his speech to the crowd and quickly back to the floor. It must have been the first time in history that a plea for world peace and harmony was booed. What an opportune moment to cut away to Michel Platini, sat among several half dead Executives. His arms folded, his face etched in a frown, Platini must be hoping this does not happen to him in Portugal in two years or Germany two later. But if this carried on, he might even get the job he wants by the time we roll into Yokohama.

    Finally it was over. Sepp handed over to the President of Korea and the Prime Minister of Japan as fast as he could. Apart from the Executives and sponsors, crowd shots showed very few clapping the man in possession of what Havelange once called the most powerful position in the world.

    Could you feel sorry for him? Did he deserve this? Of course he did. Blatter's stranglehold on FIFA is strong enough now to keep him in power until he decides to leave. But this will make him think, make him less cocksure of himself. Next time we see him in front of the TV cameras he will be in Yokohama, passing the World Cup to Emperor Akihito. I bet you any money he does not make a speech then!

    Saying that though, Sepp simply could not resist squeezing his loveable frame into the history making handshake between Korea's President and Japan's Prime Minister. Even now though events conspired to stop him - the Korean director shot away to the two nation's flags and then a video, just when Sepp was unleashing his winning smile.

    After that excitement I happily sat through half an hour of ribbons, drums and dancing waiting for the main event: France versus Senegal.

    As the game took place over lunchtime and the early afternoon here in the UK, I watched the game at work. That meant standing up in my jam-packed classroom, watching a flickering, shadowy image along with about 60 schoolkids. And it was all the better for it. For all the talk of this game being the biggest shock in World Cup history - anyone remember unbeatable England losing to the USA in 1950 or North Korea dismissing the catenaccio of Italy in 1966? - I thought it was always going to be a tight fixture. Just last week I wrote how I thought Senegal would get a point, but I have to admit that I never thought they would really win.

    But they deserved it. France seemed to be waiting around for something to happen, as if they thought they simply had to turn up to win. They never reached anything like top form, and once Djorkaeff went off - replaced unbelievably by Dugarry - France lost what cutting edge they had. Honorary Boltonian Youri Djorkaeff certainly went down a treat in my small corner of the world, seeing as so many of the kids I was watching the game with regularly saw him play for Bolton Wanderers in the last part of this season. But even this could not stop them wildly celebrating when Bouba Diop scored. It was a magical, happy moment, and is what the World Cup is all about. France are a brilliant team, and I am sure that no one will begrudge them another victory come June 30, but just for now it is good to see the Serial Killer and his mates win.

    Only another 63 games to go. Enjoy it while you can.



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