Author Topic: Well, that certainly took a long time. As a precursor to exactly what texture and tone next year's E  (Read 5 times)


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Well, that certainly took a long time. As a precursor to exactly what texture and tone next year's Euro 2012 finals are likely to take on in the frontier country of Europe's near-east, the mob-handed televisual spectacular of the group stage draw was, let's face it, absolutely no help at all. As all sofa-veterans of these occasions know, no two draws are ever the same and this draw was indeed a special one. Mainly it was incredibly long, brilliantly kitsch and, as ever, shot through with a genuine, monosyllabic tension lurking beneath its razzmatazz. The BBC coverage was fronted by Gary Lineker looking urgent and furtive behind his whiskers, with Martin Keown and the lolling, drooping Mark Lawrenson plumped like a collapsing mound of cushions on his low rise divan. Lawrenson had the right spirit, though. "Just get on with it _ I've sat through too many Fußballtrikots Kinder Schalke 04 they're absolutely boring as hell," he yawned, apparently unaware that he was speaking on live television, not to mention on a programme with the scheduled intent of not getting on with it, but instead playing old clips of John Motson going "Shearagghh!" and "Here's Ray Houghton!" "The one thing about Spain _ they haven't got Messi," Keown mused a bit later, parading the depth of his research. There was still half an hour of this to go. What else might we learn in that time? Happily before long it was over to Ukraine's Palace of Arts and its vast draw-plinth, there to be hosted by the inhumanly lovely Olga Freimut, a kind of central European robo future-babe, and Piotr Somebody, who appeared to have wandered in from a UPVC conservatory advert. There was naturally time for some "traditional Cossack dancing" _ a whirl of red silken MC Hammer trousers _ and then for some terrible indigenous pop music conveyed via a smiling woman in yellow dress who seemed to be singing Ukrainian with a quavering American accent. And then some old greats appeared, including Paul Breitner, who does still look quite a lot like a Marxist. And then the official match ball was "introduced" as Uefa staged a five-minute commercial for Adidas. And then a bald charisma-free man started telling jokes and then after many more apparently unconnected things it was finally time for what Olga was describing as "the mange ewent". And so the balls emerged, selected by a schoolboyish Peter Schmeichel, the suave Marco van Basten and a rather shy Zinedine Zidane _ and accompanied by both irritating scrolling text and the standard cut-away "reaction" shots to unknown briefly relevant men in suits. Russia got a huge cheer (and an easy group). Fußballtrikots Kinder Juventus Van Basten seemed to be joking a bit too much. The charisma-free bald man bantered in sickly fashion. Until finally we reached the golden ball, sweatily anticipated, but coyly remaining in its bucket right to the end. "The last one is England," Van Basten shrugged. And so, prised reluctantly from their goldfish bowl, England sneaked into the comfort of a mid-range so-so-really-not-that-bad-group. And that was that for the draw. Front-loaded with a ragbag of filler-pizzazz, The Draw abruptly disappeared just as a lady in a coloured apron emerged and began bogling to the sounds of Slavic reggae. Back in the studio Gary got to say the "Group of Debt", which he'd rehearsed. And post-draw we were left with just the peaty, endlessly fascinating permutations of the draw itself. Beneath all of this actual football lurks, unsquashably vital, patiently compelling. We're almost there. Just the opening ceremony now.
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