Early Doors

Bono backs brave Ireland

Early Doors

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Ireland's flagging campaign to go to the
World Cup got the political shot in the arm it so desperately needed yesterday when
it received the backing of Dublin's greatest son.

A man who heals
the sick, protects the children, cures the lepers and gives succour to the
poor. An inspiration and a figure of hope to the world's
downtrodden and a financial lifeline to makers of crap sunglasses.

Yes - and
Early Doors is genuflecting as it types this - Bono himself has lent his
backing to the risible and ill-thought-out Irish appeal to become the 33rd team
at South Africa 2010
.

The FIFA
president revealed the request yesterday morning, although he could not help
smirking and adding "yes, really" as he did so. When Sepp Blatter
thinks you're ridiculous, it could
be time to rethink your strategy.

But Bono,
the patron saint of lost causes*, has thrown his weight behind the appeal, sobbing:
"The whole country received a devastating blow. The country's going through a lot of difficult times at the
moment anyway.

"I
think it would be really a noble thing for FIFA to do. I think it's OK for FIFA to say: 'Look,
things are changing, that game was an affront to FIFA's
concept of fairness.'

"And I
think there are smart people in FIFA who will see this as an opportunity to
show that FIFA is not a huge, giant bureaucracy that can't
be turned around. It can be turned around, and it should allow Ireland
to be at the cup."

Bono thinks
he can turn FIFA around? He should stick to the easy stuff, like eradicating
AIDS
from Africa.

As the joke
goes, what's the difference between
Bono and God? God doesn't walk
around Dublin
pretending he's Bono.

With each
passing day, Roy Keane's insistence
that his countrymen simply "get over it" seems less like bitter
griping and more like good sense.

* The U2
frontman claims he bought the image rights from Jude the Apostle and is now in
a costly legal battle.

And here's Bono doing his day job with the help of Didier Drogba:

- - -

It's awards season, and last night Lionel
Messi won the most prestigious individual prize of them all - the Ballon d'Or
(ED doesn't
know what that means, but it thinks the award is sponsored by posh ice cream).

The little Argentine
deposed Cristiano Ronaldo - who was second - by a record margin in something of
a fallow year for football

Amazingly, all
of the top seven
have played for either Real Madrid or Barcelona at some point this year (although only
three of them for all of it).

Still, a top
10 ranking of Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Samuel Eto'o, Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba
and Steven Gerrard rather confirms the power shift away from the Premier League
towards Spain's big two.

Other
Premier League players who received votes were Ryan Giggs (the PFA and the Beeb
aren't the only ones suddenly keen
to honour the old man), Nemanja Vidic (presumably the ballots were cast in
March, the last time he looked any good), Andrei Arshavin, Frank Lampard and Mr
England John Terry (available for commercial endorsements).

Giggs was
football's only representative on
the 10-strong shortlist for BBC Sports Personality, and will be rubbing
shoulders with corporation-friendly gymnasts, heptathletes and divers at the
annual self-congratulatory knees-up in Sheffield - generally three hours of backslapping and rugby league Challenge Cup highlights.

He won't win, of course, since footballers do not play
well with the general public. Instead, Jenson Button will receive further
reward for lucking into the best car ahead of the more deserving likes of Andrew
Strauss and Jessica Ennis. Ho hum.

- - -

Today's Sun carries the first
pictures of next summer's World Cup
ball, the Adidas Jabulani.

And it
looks like a football, which is a relief.

ED is
convinced one day FIFA will commission a ball that is the shape and colour of a
pineapple
, claiming the revolutionary design will reward attractive, attacking
play.

That said,
ED's dream of seeing a modern World
Cup played with the classic Adidas Telstar must go on hold for another four
years.

The ball
boasts a familiar claim to be the roundest ever; it always comes as a surprise
to learn that mankind has hitherto been playing with the inflatable equivalent
of a scrunched up piece of paper.

One thing
is certain: goalkeepers will hate it. They always do. Apparently every new ball
is slippery, flies unpredictably and does generally everything in its power to
make the bloke in gloves look like a pillock.

In 2002,
Gianluigi Buffon said the Fevernova was "like a child's balloon" while four years later Jens Lehmann
was so disgusted with the Teamgeist he couldn't
even be bothered to come up with a simile, merely describing it as: "A nightmare,
an absolute nightmare."

We have had
so many evolutions of supposedly goalkeeper-unfriendly balls it is a wonder the
Jabulani doesn't spit in the keeper's face every time it is propelled goalwards. And
yet, every tournament seems to pass off without ball-related calamity.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Alex Ferguson defends Manchester United youngsters Danny
Welbeck, Federico Macheda et al: "Someone wrote that there's
no future for these players, that there's
no tomorrow for them. What an idiot. I couldn't
believe that. I played six players - two 18-year-olds, a 19-year-old, a
20-year-old and two 21-year-olds - in a European game and people say there's no future for them. It's
unbelievable. When David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and all those lads
made their debuts as a group, they were 22 years of age, three years ahead of
these players. The difference with that guy is it gets buried in the middle of
a wee article in the newspaper, whereas Alan Hansen did it in front of millions
of people and got slaughtered for it."

FOREIGN VIEW: Newell's Old
Boys' 1-0 win away to Colon in Santa
Fe, which put them top of the Argentine championship, was overshadowed by
trouble at the end of the game.

Newell's
spent the last 20 minutes defending their lead with 10 men after midfielder
Hugo Barrientos was sent off for time wasting, having been booked earlier.

Colon midfielder German Rivarola, who had a chance to equalise
but was foiled by Newell's
goalkeeper Sebastian Peratta, was also sent off at the end of the six minutes
of stoppage time.

As the final whistle sounded amid the loud
celebrations of Newell's large contingent
of fans at the ground known as the Elephants'
Graveyard, Rivarola kicked the ball into the backside of referee Javier
Collado.

It was not clear from video replays whether
the kick was intentional but Collado interpreted it as such, showing Rivarola the
red card and unleashing seething protests from the midfielder's Colon
team mates.

Collado needed protection in the middle of
the pitch from riot police carrying shields until the players calmed down.

COMING UP: Carling Cup commentaries: Portsmouth v Aston Villa and Manchester United v Tottenham plus all the scores and scorers from League One and League Two.

 

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