By rights, the World Cup draw should be about ten minutes of FIFA officials pulling names out of a hat.
It isn’t that. It’s an over-blown, over-produced hour and a half of utter nonsense, featuring puffed-up officials, random celebrities, unnecessary glitz and a wildly inflated sense of self-importance. And we all watch it because at the core of it all there’s something soccer fans really are keen to see. So it’s FIFA, basically. Damn them.
So since it’s all a bit much, and with Friday’s World Cup draw looming, why not get into the spirit of things and prepare ourselves for what’s going to happen by remembering all the wonderfully awkward moments from recent draw extravaganzas?
Programming alert: Watch the World Cup draw from Brazil on Dec. 6 live on all four main Sportsnet channels. Coverage begins at 10:30 am ET/7:30 am PT | TV schedule
World Cup 2010: Charlize Theron’s increasing discomfort with being near Jerome Valcke
Super-famous Oscar-winner Charlize Theron is from South Africa. That appears to be the beginning and end of her qualification for being the celebrity host of the draw for the 2010 World Cup. That and the fact that FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke appeared keen to stand next to her. He’d touch her arm, she’d back away; he’d touch her arm again, she’d visibly cringe. He’d unwisely probe her obscure World Cup trivia knowledge, she’d make a “dude, I’m just here to be famous and attractive” face at the camera.
At first Ms. Theron chattered nervously. Then she pretty much stopped talking altogether. Then she stopped even bothering to smile. You can’t help think proximity to FIFA officials just has that effect on people. Either way, it all devolved quickly, horribly and irredeemably to the point where Ms. Theron—and all those watching—just wanted the whole thing to be over.
Euro 2012: It’s all over…except for more unnecessary singing and dancing
The traditional Cossack dancing made sense. Ukraine was co-hosting, it was at the top of the show and that’s just the kind of stuff one expects. Cultural showcase box ticked right? No.
Just when you thought it was all over, when the groups were all picked and the purpose of the whole thing was served and everyone just wanted to get out of there, a modern (and presumably hip) Ukrainian pop group Oceana burst forth to entertain a crowd of middle-aged men in suits. It went over about as well as you’d think, presumably, but it’s hard to tell since most TV broadcasts decided just to cut away get on with the punditry. For once, the punditry was a welcome relief.
Champions League 2012-2013: Billy McNeill’s ball control fails him
Billy McNeill is a Celtic legend, captain of their 1967 European Cup¬–winning team, and twice manager of the Bhoys. Which makes his appearance at this year’s Champions League draw such a shame. Nothing humbles a once-proud world-class athlete more than being foiled by a succession of little plastic balls. McNeill’s continued inability to twist open the balls to get at the secrets (read: team names) led UEFA Chief Exec Gianni Infantino to take over, rendering McNeill a useless prop at best, the world’s worst Vanna White impersonator at worst.
Every World Cup draw: When Sepp Blatter says anything
It gets worse every time, really, the feeling that the longer the FIFA president talks, the more likely he is to careen into “no, Grandpa, you can’t say things like that anymore” territory. In 2010, after handing the 2022 World Cup to Qatar—where homosexuality is illegal—he casually advised gay football fans to “refrain from any sexual activities.” In 2004 he suggested women’s soccer would be more popular if the players wore “tighter shorts.” He referred to the multi-bazillion dollar transfer of massively popular millionaire Cristiano Ronaldo as “modern-day slavery.” The credentials (according to him) of a woman newly elected to FIFA’s executive committee? She’s “good and good-looking.”
So when he makes his customary rambling remarks at the top of every World Cup draw show, you can almost feel the entire world cringe preemptively.
2012 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award: Ronaldo is not amused
We can all take a minute to thank UEFA for adding their player awards on to the Champions League draw, saving us having to sit through (or remember to avoid, more likely) a whole other show. And let’s thank journalists everywhere for picking Andres Iniesta for the win over Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the 2012 award. Sure he deserved it, but it was his fellow nominees’ reactions that made it worthwhile.
Messi seemed one part happy for his teammate and one part “heck, I’ve won everything before so I don’t really care.” Ronaldo—who most right-thinking people consider to be a preening ego on two extremely talented legs—was visibly displeased. This, his face said, was an injustice of the highest order. As Iniesta’s name was read out, Ronaldo spontaneously turned into McKayla Maroney. It promised tears and flailing-armed rage in Ronaldo’s dressing room after the show. It was awesome.
2018/2022 World Cup draw: That time they picked Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup
Remember that? Man, that was awkward. Good thing that’s since proved to be a visionary and wise decision that has in no way proved a horrible move on every possible level. …right?