Stopping just short of inviting teams from Narnia and Middle Earth

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While the Fiver bowed to no tea-timely football email in its admiration for Michel Platini as a football player, we have been less than impressed with his foray into the world of football blazerdom. The Uefa president continues to maintain that his organisation is vigilant in the fight against racism, when all available evidence points to the contrary. He has likened the transfer of young players to child slavery, which shows a fairly skewed perspective on life and far more importantly, speaking of perspective, he also ousted the Fiver's favourite football administrator Lennart Johansson, which meant the world's most tea-timely football email no longer had any use for our favourite accompanying illustration: a photo of the elderly Swede beaming with serene happiness as he prepares to glug back a refreshing glass of booze.

But now Platini has called for the World Cup to be made bigger, which is a wheeze the Fiver can get on board with. Standing at just 36.5cm in height and sculpted in the shape of two blokes holding up the earth, the World Cup has always struck the Fiver as being a bit small to be the prize for what purports to be the most important competition in football. In much the same way that the cricketers of Australia no longer seem sufficiently incentivised to win what is ostensibly a tiny wooden egg-cup, one gets the feeling the footballers of England might make more of an effort at various World Cups if the trophy for which they were competing looked more like, say, Big Cup rather than an ornate door-stop you might find in the house of somebody with more money than taste.

"I totally agree with Mr Blatter that we need more African and Asian [countries], but instead of taking away some European, we have to go to 40 teams," he said, suggesting the Fiver might not have misunderstood the Man's instruction to write something about Platini wanting to make the World Cup bigger. "We can add two African, two Asiatic, two American, one Oceania and one from Europe," he continued, stopping just short of inviting teams from Narnia and Middle Earth. By way of justifying the bloating of an already ludicrously distended behemoth with teams that aren't very good, Platini pointed out that "football is changing and now we have 209 associations. There are more countries so why reduce?" Why reduce? Because the Fiver's ongoing battle to Stop Football will never, ever be won if New Caledonia or Tahiti are allowed to play in the World Cup.


"I remember everything about it, even the fans coming on and what clothes they were wearing!" – Fabio Borini doesn't sound like a man likely to forget scoring the winning goal in his first Wear-Tyne derby any time soon.

"When I saw the keeper couldn't reach it, I just went mad next to the corner flag. It was a great feeling. I got a few punches in the head, but that's OK!" – Steven Fletcher, who scored Sunderland's opener, fails to demonstrate similar powers of recall, possibly because the stoic centre-forward picked up a concussion after being beaten up by ecstatic fans.


"Re: Microsoft's unusable Bernabéu windows (Friday's Bits and Bobs) … 1998 called. They want their Microsoft jokes back. Hope I get a reply after I reboot. Again" – Mistr Justin.

"Well, Microsoft and Real Madrid seem to be a match made in metaphorical heaven, considering that both of them field overpriced, overhyped, and unpractical software/players and then, as an afterthought, add something more functional to the aforementioned software/players every few years" – Louis Ortal.

"After having read that a fellow reader's email client has marked you as 'important' (Friday's Fiver letters), I've decided to raise the bar by making the Fiver the singular 'VIP' of my email inbox. I'm sure that you'll be able to cope with the pressure of all these (reader-given) accolades" – Niccolo Conte.

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• Send your letters to And if you've nothing better to do you can also tweet the Fiver. Today's winner of our prizeless letter o' the day is: Dave Rowe.


We keep trying to point out the utter futility of advertising an online dating service "for interesting people" in the Fiver to the naive folk who run Guardian Soulmates, but they still aren't having any of it. So here you go – sign up here to view profiles of the kind of erudite, sociable and friendly romantics who would never dream of going out with you.


In one of very few embarrassments yet to be endured by the Fiver, Manchester United have apologised after a logo that looked a bit like a swastika was sent out in a club email alongside the dubious headline "New Order". Any offence caused was "entirely unintended", said the club, stopping short of saying the person responsible was only following orders.

Bayer Leverkusen's 2-1 win at Hoffenheim will stand despite Stefan Kiessling scoring the decisive goal through the side-netting. "The decision may be unsatisfactory from a sporting point of view but it is according to the rules and laws," sniffed Hans Lorenz of the German FA's sports court.

Chris Hughton says Leroy Fer has been made aware of his responsibilities on the fair play front after the Norwich midfielder's unsporting (or opportunistic, depending on your point of view) late "winner" against Cardiff was chalked off by referee Mike Jones for reasons that remain unclear. "He's a very honest individual, but I think he just got caught up in the moment," chirruped the Canaries boss.

West Ham striker Ricardo Vaz Te could be out for up to three months after dislocating his shoulder during yesterday's draw with Swansea, although quite why he couldn't just fix it Riggs-from-Lethal Weapon style by banging it off a goalpost remains a mystery to the Fiver.

And football's descent into utter humourlessness continued on Saturday afternoon when referee Simon Hooper sent myopic Burnley mascot Bertie Bee to the stands for offering a linesman the loan of his spectacles during his side's win over QPR at Turf Moor.


Celebrity name-dropping, Bertie Bee's Burnley shame, gratuitous plugging and a smattering of football all come up for discussion in the latest thrilling instalment of our Football Weekly podcast.

Raphael Honigstein knows so much about German football that if he was appearing on Mastermind his specialist subject would be "Hansa Rostock reserve goalkeeping coaches from 1965 to the present day". Here's his Bundesliga round-up.

Paolo Bandini knows so much about Italian football that if he was appearing on Mastermind his specialist subject would be "turnstile operators at the home of Serie C1 A side Lumezzane from 1948 to the present day". Here's his Serie A round-up.

Sid Lowe knows so much about Spanish football that if he was appearing on Mastermind his specialist subject would be "guns Hunter S Thompson would have used to shoot me if he hadn't died before I appropriated the title of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas for the title of my great new book". Here's his La Liga round-up.

And John Duerden knows so much about Asian football that if he was appearing on Mastermind his specialist subject would be "Kashima Antlers ball-boys from 1947 to the present day". Here's his take on Guangzhou Evergrande and the making of Asia's first 'superclub'.


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