Have Yourself a Messi Little Christmas
Footballers are complex souls, aren’t they? Apart from the angelic Leo Messi – who, when not breaking every goal-scoring record in sight, is setting up kids’ foundations or being a UNICEF ambassador or just smiling like the nicest man in the world – they’ve all got a dark side.
Take Didier Drogba. One minute lavishing the thick end of a million quid on his former Chelsea team-mates (and in the process redefining the word gaudy) or building hospitals in his native Ivory Coast; the next, how to put this delicately, playing at the very limits of the laws of football and falling down far more often than a man of his physique has any right to.
Or Mario Balotelli. This time last year, it was reported he was dressed as Santa, handing money out to passers-by. But this came just weeks after the ‘Why Always Me?’ T-shirt, a crass gesture he compounded by chasing Umbro for commission when the sports manufacturer began selling replicas with the slogan.
Then there was Cristiano Ronaldo’s likening of his contract situation to slavery prior to his move from United to Real. Although, in fairness, he was only echoing the sentiments of some ill-informed, out-of-touch administrator by the name of Blatter.
If only there were a way to puncture footballers’ pomposity by hijacking their names for a frivolous festive game. Well, there is.
It all started in 1997. My friend Big Tony and I were tickled by a Sun headline that read ‘Relight Ketsbaia!’ after the Georgian had scored for Tone’s beloved Newcastle United the previous evening. And it got us thinking. How many song titles featuring Premier League players could we think of?
In no time, we had a good couple of albums’ worth. Stand-out tracks included Di Canio Feel It?, Le Saux-ing The Seeds Of Love, Hazy Shade Of Winterburn, Owen Me Owen You and the sublime Do Ginola Way To San José? Tony kept a notebook of all entries that passed muster, and the list was updated regularly.
The rules, as they evolved, were straightforward. Both song title and player had to be immediately recognisable. Songs and players could only be used once on the list, which led to some tough editing choices – would we plump for Ndlovu Is A Battlefield, The Greatest Ndlovu Of All or All You Need’s Ndlovu? (We went for the last-named, but not before a heated committee meeting.) Where the player name was the same as a word in the song, this would render it inadmissible. For example, Old King Cole would not do, whereas London Cole-ing would, as long as it fulfilled the final and most important criterion: that it made us both chuckle.
Inveigling others into The Game held its own perverse pleasure. First, select your victim: a football fan, certainly; a music lover, ideally; a compiler of lists à la Nick Hornby, definitely; and a player of childish games, crucially. Next, describe the rules and casually mention some of the doosies you’ve come up with. Finally, stand back and watch as the target withdraws from social interaction, reduced to a thousand-yard-staring shell of an individual. Our finest hour was the temporary ruination of our mate Dave, a fervent Manchester United supporter and a man who wrote advertising creative ideas for a living. After a full hour and a half during which Tony and I had to make our own conversation as Dave muttered under his breath and supped Guinness at the end of the bar, the whole pub was startled into silence by his triumphant exclamation of “Have I Told You Hately That I Love You!!” The relief was palpable.
The game really caught on. Hitherto unknown colleagues would whisper coded messages to us in the corridor like Le Carré spies or slip scraps of paper into our hands with suggestions. IT wanted to know why the newly-installed email system kept crashing under the weight of messages with subject boxes like Love Is In McClair and Emotional Petrescu. And we appeared to have gone mainstream as Chris Evans started playing suspiciously similar games on his radio show, such as foodstuffs in film titles (The Texas Chainsaw Moussaka, anyone?). Tony was particularly exasperated, convinced as he was that Evans had also nicked the idea for Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush from him in the late ‘80s.
So it’s with shameless nostalgia and yuletide cheer that I’m resurrecting The Game. Ladies and gents, I give you…
Deck Fitz Hall With Boughs Of Holly – footballers in Christmas songs
Ding De Jong Merrily On High
All I Want For Christmas Is Mutu Front Teeth
Oh Little Town Of Bentley-Hem
Away In A Manninger
Cazorla Want For Christmas Is You
Rudolph The Redknapp Reindeer
Harkes! The Herald Angels Sing.
Ronaldo Come All Ye Faithful.
Balotellitubbies Say Eh-Oh (it was Number 1 in the month of December, OK?)
Drogba-by It’s Cold Outside
I’m sure you’ll have your own to add. Go on, treat yourself, comment below. It’s the Christmas gift that keeps on giving.Tagged in: Lionel Messi
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