There's nothing new about Gary Lineker's trawl through Brazil's World Cup highs and lows – but it's still magic
I know, I did David Beckham's little Brazilian adventure yesterday. Now this: Lineker in Brazil: The Beautiful Game (BBC1). This is a column mainly about former England captains in Rio de Janeiro. The place must be crawling with them. Tomorrow we'll be focusing mainly on Bryan Robson's samba school, then capoeira with Tony Adams …
Gary's not discovering himself, though, he's here to talk about football: understandably, given what's just about to happen. Talk football with Ronaldo – original Ronaldo, Fat Ronaldo. Even Fatter Ronaldo now, he's the balloon d'or. Who ate all the empanadas?
Gary talks to Pelé too, though my review copy doesn't include the interview, so I don't know what he has to say. Something diplomatic, I imagine. But here's another former England captain with a view on the famous number 10: "When you think of Brazil, Pelé's name does come in there," says Rio de Ferdinando, wisely. What, so the greatest of them all gets mentioned, does he Rio? Brilliant, thanks for that.
"It really is a unique way of playing," says another former England captain with not much to say, Michael Owen. "Just dazzling," says another Michael, Michael Palin. Michael Palin! What's he doing here? Oh I see, he likes football, and he's been to Brazil. Plus he did a couple of sketches about football back in the Python days. Or Monte Anaconda, as they're known in South America.
There are others pundits. Scots (Souness, Dalglish, Hansen); Frenchmen (Ginola, Henry); actual Brazilians (Leonardo, and Fernanda Lima, who many will remember from the draw, as well as Ronaldo and Pelé); plus journalists, writers, musicians. Saying nothing very surprising. The way we/they play football reflects the way we/they are – outgoing, happy, living life to the full and day to day. Religion, samba, the beach, blah. Are there really no sad people in Brazil? It must be a terrible place to be depressed.
The story of Victorian Brit Charles Miller, who possibly brought the game out to the Brazilians for them to beautify, is interesting (because I didn't know it). Otherwise, this is a fairly familiar trawl through Brazil's World Cup highs and lows since the national tragedy of 1950 (the tragedy being that they lost it, to Uruguay). Pelé of course and that pass, seeming going nowhere, but actually perfectly weighted for Carlos Alberto to drill home. Also Garrincha, more Brazilian than Pelé because he made you laugh as well, says Alex Bellos (whose book on Brazilian football is more interesting – and surprising – than this). Then the brilliant 1982 side with Socrates, Zico and Falcao, that should have won it but didn't. And 1994's, with Bebeto and Romario, which possibly shouldn't have won it but did. And on to Fat Ron, mystery and disaster in France 98, and redemption four years later …
Oh, maybe it doesn't matter if it is familiar. And packed full of cliches. As Palin and the Brazilians themselves say, the cliches are all true. They are outgoing, and sunny, packed full of joy, and that really is reflected in the way they play. It doesn't matter if you've seen Pelé's pass a billion times, and the build-up to it, plus Garrincha's tricks, and Eder's chip. It's still beautiful, all of it. And here we go again. Tomorrow!
And here's more football, plus yet another England captain in Rio de Janeiro. But Sam's a she, and only 17. She, plus Chloe, Layla, Sherelle, Camille and Olivia are in town for Street Kid World Cup (BBC3). Maybe they're not exactly street kids, but they've all been brought up in care. It hasn't been easy; they've missed out on things – a lot of childhood, mostly. Not that they're looking for sympathy. Anyway, unlike Rio F and Michael O, this lot have plenty to say, about everything. Like their appearance ("my hair's giving me stress and all that"); the coach's appearance ("I'm just cussing Jack about his clashedness"); the climate ("what kind of heat is this, this is dirty"); favela houses ("how do people live in them, that's not fair, the walls are missing"); the local fauna ("big arse cockroaches, no lying"); the opposition ("they need to shut their mouths up") etc.
Basically, they do their talking off the pitch, so by the time it comes to playing there's very little left to give (it probably doesn't help that they're all puffing away on their duty-frees between games). Frankly, the football – and some of the behaviour – is a disgrace. But they're much more entertaining than Rio or Michael. Inspirational too, in their own ways. Come on England.