The World Cup as a pantomime is the entertainment we never knew we needed. Oh yes it is!

A Christmas World Cup makes John Roycroft consider a new genre of seasonal entertainment, where the worlds of football and pantomime performance meet. 
The World Cup as a pantomime is the entertainment we never knew we needed. Oh yes it is!

Former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland footballer Roy Keane has been characterised as the pantomime villain for his grumpy, humbug, of the Brazilian players’  goal celebrations.

CHRISTMAS is fast approaching and for most of us, this entails fitting in some seasonal activities unfamiliar to the rest of the year. But few could have visualised cramming in a World Cup semi-final or two between collecting the turkey and getting the kids ready for a trip to the Christmas pantomime.

It is in these unusual circumstances, that the entire World Cup has now taken on many of the attributes of the seasonal stage production. If we should ever have a Middle Eastern/mid-winter World Cup again it might be of help that we adopt some of the phrases and characteristics of the pantomime culture to be included as part of the beautiful game.

Already, poor old Roy Keane was characterised as the pantomime villain for his grumpy humbug, of the Brazilian players’ OTT goal celebrations.  With one of our own already cast in one of the key roles, maybe we should all embrace the football as a pantomime.

From now on, we won’t need to identify a match by their boring group letter or knockout round designation. Instead, we can name them after the far more colourful pantomime monikers with a football twist. Oliver if you like...

Twankey has a no shot

Aladdin comes to mind first. What better name for a football game in the Middle East than the tale of the street urchin character from Arabian Nights. The only problem with this plan is that another one of the main characters in the show is the Widow Twankey. Unfortunately, that is usually played by a pantomime dame, basically a man dressed in women’s clothes, which as we have discovered is not all that favourably looked upon in this neck of the desert.

Oh no he didn't: Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after the FIFA World Cup Round of Sixteen match at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar.
Oh no he didn't: Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after the FIFA World Cup Round of Sixteen match at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar.

Morocco have shown themselves to be the Cinderella of the tournament, unexpectedly getting to the ball while those who presumed success were left without a date… in the quarterfinals.  Sleeping (giant) Beauty, may be Argentina, who looked rather sleepy early on, before they came to life in beautiful fashion. Snow White and the Seven Midfielders has an air of France about it,  as the team beavers away to make sure that golden boy Kylian Mbappe produces his miracles. Sadly, Pus ‘n’ Boots can only be Portugal, as the forever unhappy Ronaldo scowls whenever he’s not playing and scowls even more when he has to play with the mere mortals that constitute his teammates.

Oh yes he did: England Beanstalk Harry Maguire during the FIFA World Cup Round of Sixteen match at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Oh yes he did: England Beanstalk Harry Maguire during the FIFA World Cup Round of Sixteen match at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire

So, this new naming system not only dramatizes proceedings even more, it also has the advantage of identifying characters within the games themselves. Jack and the Beanstalk could play well with the England setup of the mercurial Jack Grealish and the 6’ 4” beanstalk in defence that is Harry Maguire. Beauty and the Beast could easily be related to Brazil, leaving it up to the you to decide who is the beast in this beautiful team, but it is Richarlison, isn’t it?. 

Beautiful game: Brazil's Richarlison celebrates scoring their side's third goal of the game during the FIFA World Cup Round of Sixteen match at Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
Beautiful game: Brazil's Richarlison celebrates scoring their side's third goal of the game during the FIFA World Cup Round of Sixteen match at Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Of course, the Wizard of Oz will be held over for whenever Australia qualifies again. 

Goldilocks and the Three Bears probably sums up the next World Cup in 2026 and the host nations of Mexico, Canada, and the USA. Yeah, that right… one place is too hot, one place is too cold, and one place is just right, with a predilection to gun crime.

Behind You!

Indeed, things will change for the fans too in the world of pantomime football, requiring different engagements from the fans, depending on the situation. Such as, whenever one of your players is about to be blindsided by an opponent’s tackle, the traditional crowd call is to bellow, “House!” This will have to change to the stage exclamation of, “Behind you!”, which we will all greet with exaggerated incredulity whenever the player misses the obvious warning and turns right into the tackle.

Var the villain: A view of the big screen after a goal for Brazil's Vinicius Junior is ruled out by VAR for offside. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
Var the villain: A view of the big screen after a goal for Brazil's Vinicius Junior is ruled out by VAR for offside. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Then we come to the situation with VAR which could become the very essence of the pantomime game. At the moment, fans are left in impotent frustration awaiting their fate while the electronic referee decides if a goal should stand or be ruled out for being a foul or for being offside. In the world of pantomime football the fans will be allowed to engage VAR in a back ‘n’ forth with the VAR screen showing ‘checking for possible offside’ and the crowd replying, “Oh no he’s isn’t!” and VAR deciding anyway ‘oh yes he is’.

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