1. You know a World Cup is here when sports writers suddenly become medical experts pontificating about injuries to previously unknown muscles or bones. If the injury is to a major player it is an occasion for the sort of coverage which in the past used to be reserved for the death of the monarch or a leading national figure. If the player misses the tournament, mourning about bad luck follows.

2. Already in this World Cup there has been much interest in why Wayne Rooney is wearing a cross. Has he discovered religion? Players and religion are not a laughing matter. The players from Latin countries tend not only to be religious, like Kaka of Brazil, but they are proud to invoke their deity before, during and after a match. Watch for countries where players cross themselves as they take the field. Few English players do so, which may, or may not, be a reflection of the relaxed traditions of the Church of England.

3. Watch for players’ lips when the national anthems are played. How many are singing or just miming and how many are making no effort at all? Can you tell their patriotism from that? The Germans are having a big debate on this and saying foreign born Germans are not German enough because they do not sing.

4. How players celebrate is always fascinating. Once, a hundred years ago, they shook hands like properly brought up gentlemen. Now they jump on each other, chase the goal scorer as if he has stolen something and throw themselves on to the ground as if they have suddenly found god. The goal scorer takes his shirt off as if gripped by ecstasy. In 1990 in Italy, Roger Milla of Cameroon danced at the corner flag and set a new trend. Who will set a new one this time?

5. What managers are wearing is always a very good game. Do they wear suits, as Fabio and Sven before him, or is it track suits. None of them can match the sartorial elegance of Jose Mourinho but the quality of suits tells us much.

6. What managers do during matches is also very interesting. Do they always chew gum, do they sit in the dugout, or do they stand on the edge of the designated box and react instantly to everything that is happening? During matches the cameras will focus on their reactions and try and tell you want they mean, a sports version of the old game of analysing the faces of the Politburo during a May Day parade in communist Moscow.

7. Watch out for how players behave when they are substituted. If they wearily but without demur accept the consoling hand of the manager or his assistant, all is well. If they scowl or throw their water bottle, a major row is about blow up between player and manager.

8. Back in 1986, the World Cup in Mexico led to the Mexican wave, a spectator reaction that caught on. Nothing like that has been attempted since. Will South Africa provide us with an African roll or whatever to remember this one? It could be South Africa’s most memorable contribution to the game.

9. Wags are always good fun but it is only England that tends to make such a fuss about them. Nevertheless where they stay, how they dress and how much they spend shows that football goes beyond the field of play.

10. World Cups are great for oldies. Old players, once great champions, emerge. Usually they are sponsored. They are careful to say nothing really meaningful as this would make them enemies of the present crop. For the media it is a struggle to get a decent story and avoiding it becoming an advert for the sponsor who has laid on the celebrities.


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