Armchair Reporter: Fifa’s fiesta of sycophancy lives on

Just because Uncle Sepp is no longer on the scene, that doesn’t mean the festival of sycophancy which is Fifa’s Ballon d’Or is going to disappear as well.

The annual handing over of a huge gold ball to either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo was screened by Eurosport last Monday with extra padding than an egg cup delivered by Amazon.

Naturally, among the presenters was a multi-lingual sports presenter in Kate Abdo. Puzzlingly, the other was James Nesbitt, on hand to provide far more cheese than a truck load of Coleraine cheddar. Much more puzzling was the barnet sported by ‘our Jimmy’. Needless to say, actors’ appearances can modify from day to day, based on what roles they’re playing, but Nesbitt seemed to reprising the one particular he played in these Thomas Cook advertisements – the flapping tourist with barely a straw-clutching grasp in the regional lingo.

When he wasn’t getting all giddy and racking up the selfies with the globe greatest footballers, Nesbitt risked a restraining order by badgering Cristiano Ronaldo about when/if/come on, quite, fairly please (delete as likely) he would consider providing up his career in sunny Madrid and his deification around the Iberian peninsula and return to Manchester.

In a uncommon glimpse of humility (to become fair, we were all scundered for him), Cristiano smiled politely, and awkwardly, and laughed at this man with Lego hair.

It was really a night of eyebrow raising puzzlement – and Carlo Ancelotti wasn’t even there – which began off with a duet in between a pair of cellists, among whom seemed to believe he was the reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix. The audience applauding with that kind of awkward politeness you would greet a request to ditch sunny Spain for rainy Lancashire.

When it was time for you to trot out the group on the year, Jimmy’s telephone was as busy as Jim White’s on transfer deadline day. His pigeon French/Spanish/Esperanto was enough to snap a couple of selfies having a group of players who study like purchasing list for Man City owner Sheikh Mansour, but not sufficient for him to tell Paul Pogba his jacket was inside out.

In another cringefest, there was an attempt at welding with each other footage of players from Barcelona, True Madrid, PSG and Juventus to look like they were in the similar group which featured an audacious sweep from left to correct, but adequate about Nesbitt’s do.

Ultimately, it was wee Lionel who picked up the top gong, or Ballon d’awwwwhhh as ‘our Jimmy’ insisted on calling it. Cristiano did his finest to conceal his simmering disgust while Neymar, who had pitched up dressed as a cross involving Bruno Mars as well as the most fashionable Orangeman this side with the Bann, was delighted for his mate.