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Dec 25, 2010

Christmas turkeys

As 2010 nears an end The Fifth Official pours over the goings-on at home and abroad over the last 12 months, and plucks out half-a-dozen turkeys, basted and ready for carving.

World Cup turkeys

Year of the buffoon

How can it be that the most important man in football is also the biggest idiot in football? Sir Joseph Blatter has had a consistent 2010, in that it has found him consistently lacking in judgement, tact and anything approaching transparency.

It should have been a glorious year for Blatt, bringing the World Cup to Africa, but as the tournament entered the second round things fell apart. Even allowing for local bias, the fact that ten years into the 21st century FIFA have allowed a situation to develop whereby a Frank Lampard shot can drop a yard over the line and still not count is a heinous crime of the highest order. Sepp didn't care though; he was too busy lapping up freebies in the posh seats.

Usually in a situation like that the only people who don't know exactly what has happened are those in the stadium, but later that day 80,000 inside Soccer City were treated to a replay of a Carlos Tevez goal for Argentina that was clearly offside. Still, despite everyone in the world now knowing the goal was illegal, and with the Mexican team hopping mad, the officials were powerless to do anything about it. Sepp hastily vowed to re-open the book he had already closed on video replays soon after. Blatter late than never.

More recently, Sepp has seen fit to lambast the British media for uncovering corruption within his organisation, leading to the suspension of two execs that were caught, allegedly, selling their World Cup votes. Still, the award of the 2018 tournament to Russia - despite concerns over their poor transport infrastructure - and 2022 to Qatar - despite the fact it's so hot people might die - did much to dispel the notion that the whole process had been decided by shady deals behind closed doors. And because we never get to know who voted for whom, everybody is none the wiser. Smashing.

Sepp wasn't finished there though, slamming England as sore losers, despite theirs being the highest rated bid, then telling gay people to 'refrain' from sexual activity when in Qatar, a country where homosexuality is still illegal. Take a bow Sepp. Let's see if you can match it in 2011.

Nigel De Jong in 'A clockwork Oranje'

In truth, the most disappointing aspect of what turned about to be a joyous celebration of all things Africa was the football. Things briefly threatened to burst into life during the second round of group matches butmore often than not a very excited public had their fervour steadily choked out of them by the vice-like stranglehold of games like France v Uruguay and Ivory Coast v Portugal.

One team stood head and shoulders above the rest (Spain) while one just seemed intent on kicking people in the head and shoulders (Netherlands). The victory over Brazil aside, the Dutch moved as far away from the Total Football principles of Johan Cryuff as it is possible to get, the great man himself leading the chorus of disapproval. The chief culprit was midfield terrier and specialist leg breaker: Nigel De Jong.

His, and the Netherlands, nadir came in the final, where one team was intent on executing tiki-taka while the other was concentrating on executing kung fu kicks, as De Jong's vicious boot into the chest of Xabi Alonso perfectly demonstrated. The horrific violence on show led me to christen the losers 'A Clockwork Oranje' and yes, I was quite pleased with that one actually.

Luis Suarez: Bite me

The only chap to rival Blatter in the popularity stakes at the tournament was a certain Uruguayan striker. Just as Sepp would be ill advised to wander around Temple Bar in Dublin late at night, so should Luis Suarez avoid a trip to downtown Accra if he ever returns to Africa.

Not only did the little blighter rob Ghana of a place in the semi-final with a disgraceful handball, he then celebrated Asamoah Gyan's heart-breaking penalty miss wildly as he was being led down the tunnel. Then, Suarez openly bragged about his feat and insisted Maradona's famous misdemeanour of World Cup '86 was merely the hors d'oeuvres to his full- blown banquet of blatant cheating.

Thankfully, the Dutch did a number on Uruguay in the semis, forcing Suarez and his guilty hands back home to turn out for Ajax. He has largely kept out of trouble since, oh, apart from the incident against PSV when he bit Otman Bakkal and was slapped with a seven-match ban.

Premier League turkeys

Roo idiot

It was the saga that gripped the nation (no, not his alleged romps with hookers - that comes later). Weeks after the Roonatic's pitiful World Cup with England, complete with abuse for the fans who had stumped up their life savings to follow their team, he invoked gasps all round, by dropping the bombshell that he wanted to leave Manchester United.

The club's fans mourned, Fergie looked close to tears in his Oscar-winning presser while across town the City fans laughed their manboobs off. Then, just as it looked like a mega-money move to Eastlands was on the cards, Rooney was disentangled from the grip of his agent and hauled back from the precipice to sign a whopping new deal at Old Trafford.

Quite why he deserved it after scoring one penalty since the start of the season and spending a large portion of his time in America necking cheeseburgers is a mystery. But at least things have changed since his U-turn - he now misses penalties.

Bored to tears with Tevez

Making a determined late effort to be crowned chief turkey of 2010 is Carlos Tevez. If the little imp isn't harping on about how miserable he is, he's trying to extort more money from the club that reportedly stuffs £286,000 crisp ones into his pocket every week.

Despite an impressive scoring record since he took the walk of shame across Manchester, being handed the captaincy and practically having a team built around him, it seems nothing can please the arsey Argentinean, least of all being substituted against Bolton when he looked one step away from booting his boss in the shins and strangling Garry Cook with his snood.

A predictable transfer request followed, as if Tevez was proving to Rooney how much he misses him by copying his prima donna routine in full. Then, after a little bit of mudslinging at Cook and Brian Marwood, another bout of retirement talk, and the threat of a huge lawsuit if he did walk out on City, he realised he was better off staying put. A match made in heaven you say? Quite right.

Mr Chelsea: Mr Randy more like

This year will also be remembered for the most talked about non-handshake in the history of football. Allegations splashed all over the tabloids had it that Mr Chelsea was having a bit of how's your father with his mate's missus, which all meant Wayne Bridge resigned from England duty (talk about jumping before you're pushed) and then gave JT the brush off when they came face-to-face at Stamford Bridge.

Terry's form wobbled heavily as a result, but his supreme ego never once looked like it took a knock - until the World Cup that is, when he took it upon himself to offer Fabio Capello out on behalf of his fellow players, none of whom had sanctioned his rant. He ended his deluded year referring to Chelsea colleagues as "my players".

Of course, Terry wasn't alone in straying from the path of righteousness. Avram Grant sullied his name with grubby trips to a Portsmouth massage parlour while the wonder that is Wayne Rooney manages to drape his ample frame across another section due to his caddish behaviour. His frolicking with women in hotel rooms wouldn't have been so bad if they had been with his wife. But they weren't.

And finally... Pantomime Turkeys

Such was the sheer weight of candidates in our list of turkeys, I couldn't even squeeze in a section for Mike Ashley and the entire cast of Venky's. But fear not, I think that pair of meddling owners will be getting plenty in 2011, don't you?

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