Antony and grim-faced Football Men providing real entertainment | Football


Big Vase is a most missable feast. After a week of Super Sunday, the Real Monday Night Football (Keys & Gray version, natch) and two nights of Big Cup VAR controversy, The Fiver sloped off for a Thursday night down the Salt Tears Arms, allowing its new-fangled smartphone’s alerts to take the strain. Arsenal lost at PSV. Mildly interesting. Manchester United beat FC Sheriff 3-0. Ho hum. How might the self-styled world’s foremost content delivery machine seize the social media disgrace agenda from that one? And go, as they say, viral. The answer lay not in Cristiano Ronaldo scoring, but instead Antony boarding the showboat in a manner Darcey Bussell would have been proud of before she hung up her slippers.

The clock had ticked past the 37th minute and Big Red were still level with the crack Moldovan outfit when Casemiro played the ball rightwards to his compatriot. With Sheriff defender Patrick Kpozo watching in the style of Indiana Jones and that marketplace swordsman, Antony did three 360s, like Tony Hawk in lightweight Pumas, while caressing the ball with his right foot. He then hooked a pass towards Casemiro that didn’t reach its target. Spectacular stuff but not because of Antony reviving the ghosts of Garrincha’s bow-legged wizardry, Denilson’s lollipops and Kerlon’s seal dribble. No, it was left to the grim-faced Football Men to provide the real entertainment. “Ridiculous,” wailed Robbie Savage. “Embarrassing. He puts the ball out of play.”

Savage appeared to ignore that had Casemiro, 57, run a bit faster then he might have got on the end of a decent attempt at a through pass. But summary judgment had been delivered; now was the time for old pros to sermonise. “I just don’t think it’s skill or entertainment, it’s just being a clown,” harrumphed Paul Scholes, football punditry’s answer to Percy Sugden, probably recalling memories of Nani pratting about as Lord Ferg’s face went redder than Peter Schmeichel’s tig that time Nicky Butt burned it with the tea urn.

Erik ten Hag, settling well into the role of puritanical disciplinarian, having shown Ronaldo who’s boss, wasn’t too happy. But neither was he too fussed. “I have no problem with that as long as it is functional,” he shrugged. “But if it’s a trick because of a trick, then I will correct him.” The new King Erik has become rather adept at taking the steam out of the type of farrago that did for every post-Ferg United boss. As for Antony? “We’re known for our art and I won’t stop doing what got me to where I am,” he trilled on Instachat. Good news for all those who’d like to see him dance again.


“For many people from under-represented or minority communities, much of the last 50 years has been a depressing cycle of promises, raised hopes and disappointment. Football is at a crucial point and needs to make the right choices so the Football Leadership Diversity Code does not become the latest entry in a 50-year catalogue of missed opportunities” – Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari responds to the news that English clubs have failed to meet six of their eight diversity targets.

Sanjay Bhandari.
Sanjay Bhandari. Photograph: Paul Currie/Rex/Shutterstock

Big Website is shortlisted in the upcoming FSA Awards, along with David Squires, Suzanne Wrack, Barney Ronay and Football Weekly. If you want to lend them your vote, you can do so here.

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“I’m here to affirm that I won’t be watching the Human Rights World Cup, and though I won’t judge anyone for doing so, I encourage dear readers to skip it as well. I love football. I think it can be such a force for good, for bringing people together. To see it corrupted by rank and corrupt capitalism hurts my heart … not to mention the human toll which is exponentially larger than any tragedies we’ve seen before in the game. Perspective” – Jason Palivoda.

A man taking photos of the HRWC mascot outside a shop in Hangzhou, China
A man taking photos of the HRWC mascot outside a shop in Hangzhou, China, earlier. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

“Re: yesterday’s Fiver. All this ‘VAR is ruining the game’ nonsense simply because the correct result, decided within the laws of the game, led to a conclusion that wasn’t popular with partisan fans is leading me to wonder whether punters and pundits think VAR is like a test screening for a movie. Like when they kill the dog at the end and the audience vote to keep it alive. Maybe there should be ‘ask the audience’ or ‘choose your ending’ in real time, or we can introduce a post-match CGI download for season-ticket holders: enter the multi-var-se. The bean counters can also start changing some other historical facts we are unhappy with for the sake of entertainment, like Maradona ‘86 or Russia ‘18 or the last Tory leadership battle when Truss beat Sunak. OK, maybe VAR got that last one right” – Brian James.

“Far be it from me to tell The Fiver what its priorities should be, but enough already of the HRWC, Antonio Conte’s tantrums and some Italian club that doesn’t win anything. How about investing a bit more time in Southend United, now languishing in the National League and facing the parent company being struck off yet again, under an embargo yet again and waiting 20 years or more for a new stadium which will only have three sides to it and be built in the middle of a housing estate. That’s real drama compared to some of the Premier League antics you devote so much space to” – Gerry Stonestreet.

“I laughed while reading The Fiver yesterday! Imagine, real laughter! Admittedly it was just at Matt Leonard’s suggestion (yesterday’s Fiver letters) that The Fiver was good 20 years ago, but still …” – Colum Farrelly.

Send your letters to And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winners of our letters o’ the day are … Brian James and Gerry Stonestreet, who win our final copies of Inside Qatar, by John McManus.

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