Sofa-jumping is an unfairly maligned indoor sport made famous by the loved-up Tom Cruise during an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2005. Now it has a slightly more upmarket rival in the form of “Sofia jumping”, an activity practised by over excited members of the Spanish royal family. On Sunday, Johannesburg’s Soccer City was the venue for Queen Sofia’s not very regal display of joy at seeing Andres Iniesta’s goal finally break the deadlock in Spain’s match with Holland.
You can’t really blame her. It’s been an extraordinary few weeks for Spanish sport, since Rafael Nadal took his fifth French Open title on 6 June and then it followed it up with a second Wimbledon crown. Nadal chose to celebrate with a spontaneous somersault on Centre Court, while Sofia opted to jump onto her seat as Spain’s footballers headed for World Cup glory. At least it shows a genuine enthusiasm for the country’s sporting success. By contrast, Queen Elizabeth’s interest in non-equine sports is probably on a par with Prince Charles’s affection for modern architecture. She’s happy to keep doling out MBEs — even the occasional knighthood — but don’t ask her to party with the Beckhams.
The result may have been welcomed by non-partisans, but the World Cup final will be remembered more for the number of yellow cards handed out by beleaguered referee Howard Webb than for moments of sublime footballing skill. It wasn’t dull: the presence of whining winger Arjen Robben always guarantees plenty of overacting, feigned disbelief and downright petulance. But the widespread condemnation of Dutch “brutality” strikes me as another example of journalistic hyperbole. I didn’t see any broken limbs or open wounds — just a lot of clumsy, ill-disciplined play and lousy finishing.
Nigel de Jong’s superbly choreographed flying kick on Xabi Alonso has, rightly, passed into footballing legend. Much debate has centred on Webb’s reluctance to show him the red card he so richly deserved. But the utter absurdity of football’s laws was best demonstrated in the game’s dying moments, when Iniesta was also booked for the heinous offence of removing his shirt during the goal celebrations. Yes, “blundering Blatter” strikes again, with another nonsensical rule designed to bring the game into disrepute. The man is a total idiot.
The trophy may have been handed out, but a sporting event on the BBC is never really over until you’ve been sucked into one of those closing montages that leaves you feeling shaken, stirred and just a little bit sentimental. Last week’s “The Fairy Story of Wimbledon 2010” was a bit too whimsical for my tastes, with its talk of “noble princesses” (Venus) and “Scottish warriors” (Andy Murray). Still, at least the average viewer would have understood what the BBC was getting at, before launching into one of those anti-licence fee tirades that keep us all going during these straitened times.
The BBC’s World Cup effort was so spectacularly ill-judged that I still can’t quite believe it was green-lit. Yes, the Corporation chose to present a retrospective done in the mock documentary style of the Oscar-nominated sci-fi satire, District 9. For those who haven’t seen the movie, it’s about some really ugly aliens (known as “prawns”), stalls above Johannesburg forcing them to endure apartheid-like segregation in squalid camps. Their miserable existence is made bearable only by the supply of catfood they obtain from Nigerian hoodlums.
I recommend the film — at least until it descends into generic action shoot-em-up territory during the final half hour. But equating the building of Soccer City — “A Vast Structure Rose Above the Horizon” — with the arrival of an alien spaceship just strikes me as too clever by half. The joke would have been completely lost on those who haven’t seen or heard of Neill Blomkamp’s movie.
So the climax of the Open Golf Championship at St Andrews next weekend has now taken on a whole new dimension. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson can squabble all they like over the claret jug and the World Number 1 ranking. I just want to know what those whizz-kid editors at the Beeb are lining up for the finale. Is it too much to hope for more Spanish success — Sergio Garcia’s long-awaited first Major and a montage done in the style of Pedro Almodovar?
(Article first published as Johannesburg’s Night To Remember: Spain Reigns In 2010 World Cup Final on Blogcritics.)