Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Blanked by the BBC.....

A couple of weeks ago, I had a go at writing a script for the BBC FiveLive listeners competition, World Cup Tapes. The subject was the World Cup - and the listeners experiences of the great competition over the years. The winning entries would get a few hundred quid cash - and their winning entries would be read out on air by my hero, Johnny Vegas. Needless to say, my effort wasn't selected - which was a bit disappointing. Anyway, for what it's worth, it is reproduced here - and concerns a true incident during the 1986 World Cup when I was trying to illustrate to two of my toddler kids just how good Maradona's legal goal against England actually was.....

Under the blazing kitchen ceiling of the Aztec Stadium, the tension is unbearable, the place is a cauldron of noise, sticky handprints, half eaten jam butties and fumes from last night’s curry. OK kids, gather round. This is it. The 1986 quarter final of the World Cup in Mexico City – and England are playing Argentina in the biggest grudge match since Popeye last beat up Bluto for tipping his cap at Olive Oil.

Now pay attention, this bottle of mint sauce is Maradona – he’s captain of Argentina and is the greatest player in the world. Although having more skill than a shed full of brain surgeons, note his untrustworthy profile, his shifty, low cunning demeanour and his tendency to keep handling the ball when no one is looking. Around him stands the cream of honest English yeoman footballing talent. For them, the Corinthian spirit still beats strong within their noble chests. They must surely be more than a match for the man from the pampas - Diego Armando Maradona!

All of a sudden, the ball breaks to the little guy. In an instant, the rolled-up piece of silver paper is under the control of the greatest bottle of mint sauce in the footballing world. Head down, he’s off towards the English half. The control is exquisite, the silver paper ball is glued to his foot as if held there by a force unknown to the average English defender.

His run is relentless, pounding, pacy and unerring - the little genius from the condiments cupboard is on a mission to double his side’s lead – and put an end to Bobby Robson’s boys brave but ultimately futile attempt to progress any further in the competition. He rounds Hoddle the Pepper Poddle with consummate ease. Next, he shimmies past Reidy the novelty squeezy-sauce tomato - and sashays past the near-empty Sanson butter tub, leaving him spread all over the table.

Things are looking serious for England. Where is Roy of the Rovers when you need him, surely Melchester’s finest would put a stop to this dazzling dribble once and for all? On and on, Maradona bears down. The little genius and spring heeled cheat is zeroing in on sporting history…… – But hang on, just let’s wait a mo’ …..let’s not panic, England’s ‘Heart of Oak’ central defence is squaring up. He shall not pass.

There they are, the twin set of four-squared resolution, the English beefed magnificence that is the mustard jar and the vinegar bottle. Unfortunately, whether they’re affected by the dazzling light and relentless heat from the 60 watt kitchen bulb beating down on them, or because they are just a few dollops short of a full measure, they both collapse in synchronistic heaps, their legs knotted, their brains frazzled, their contents unsettled.

First, he makes a monkey out of the tin of Butcher mustard – and in an instant, glides past the Fenwick vinegar bottle as if he isn’t there – which he isn’t – we forgot to buy some on last Friday’s shopping run… For God’s sake, How can I be expected to recreate the greatest World Cup goal in history on this kitchen table when you’ve forgotten to buy the bottle of Terry Fenwick vinegar?…… Never mind kids – you’ll just have to use your imagination, he should be there – but he isn’t….. come to think of it, the same thing happened in 1986!…

By now, the little guy is in the area, relentlessly bearing down on Salty Shilton’s goal. The mustard jar makes one last, despairing effort to block the ball…. He fails miserably. Salty dives, but…… too late. Mint Sauce Maradona slots the ball home between the knife and fork. The serviette bulges and the ball is in the back of the net ….. Argentina 2 : England 0….

Over the Mexican waved roar from the capacity crowd of 2 kids, an overgrown schoolboy and a despairing wife, commentator Barry Drainboard could be heard hysterically summing up this astounding piece of skill perfectly… "You have to say - that is quite, quite magnificent"….. And it was.

And so ended our kitchen table drama – my recreation of the 1986 Argentina – England football match and Maradona’s wonder goal in our kitchen, to a couple of snotty nosed kids and a long suffering spouse. The kitchen table looked like a bomb had hit it. Reidy the novelty tomato is on his side rotating slowly in an arc. Every time he rolls, another dollop of tomato sauce is blobbed onto the formica top. Shilts is in a salty spin – he’s still trying to work out how a vertically challenged Argentinean schoolboy has out-jumped him to palm the ball in for the first goal…

Hoddle the pepper poddle is grinding away in the corner, bitter that someone has comprehensively out-skilled him in the shimmy department…….. And Sanson the butter tub? He’s gone – carried off for a rendezvous with a rather delicious ham salad sandwich.