Fifa ambushes itself. Again
Carlos Amato: Until this week, had you ever given a millisecond's thought to the personality or merits of Bavaria beer? Nope? Me neither.
But on Tuesday, I resolved to invest in a six-pack of this fascinating Dutch pilsener. Me and millions of other World Cup onlookers now reckon that Bavaria is a rebellious, sexy, fun and edgy beverage. Wrongly, of course, because a beer is a beer is a beer. It's innately fun, no matter what the label says. Allow any carbohydrate to ferment for a while and you have yourself an edgy beverage.
For Bavaria, the beautiful thing is that they did not engineer this marketing miracle. Fifa did it for them, on behalf of Budweiser, the World Cup sponsors they were attempting to protect.
Bavaria's rather pedestrian ambush-marketing stunt at Soccer City - they dressed a gaggle of blonde South African babes in branded orange miniskirts, and sent them to the game with cadged tickets - would have had a puny impact, had Fifa not made such a spectacularly self-defeating brouhaha about it.
Fifa has made complaints against the two evil masterminds of the outing, Barbara Castelein and Mirte Nieuwpoort - a move the Dutch government has drily termed "disproportionate".
You would have thought Nicolas Maingot and his advisers had learned something from Fifa's pyrrhic legal victory over budget airline Kulula, whose advertisements so wittily mocked them.
It seems Fifa's impressive efficiency relies on anal thinking. In Rustenburg, myself and two fellow writers found ourselves in the wrong place, and sneaked through a gap in a portable fence into the media area of the stadium precinct.
A Fifa media official caught us in the act. She sternly declared that we had no right to be in the area we were trying to leave. My colleague said: "But we're trying to leave that area! It's OK!"
She strongly disagreed. "It is NOT okay!" she snapped in her rectangular Teutonic tones. Real anger flashed in her eyes. We urged her to smile and relax. She did neither. But short of carting us off to jail, there was nothing she could do to reverse the ripple of disorder we had set off in her world, so she grimly watched us go.
The scourge of Fifa's humourlessness is Diego Maradona. He is the quintessence of "NOT okay" - and deserves kudos for slagging off smug mandarins like Michel Platini and Pele ("Go back to the museum!" is an instant classic).
Maradona is a one-man ambush-marketing campaign. Here's hoping he and his team go far.
Needless to say, a dash of uptight, Fifa-style management would do South African football plenty of good. Our game is all about bluster, hype and easy sponsorship money, with no attention paid to the dull investment in academies that grow great footballers. Even the fans are shallow and short-sighted: witness the disloyal thousands who abandoned Loftus Versfeld a full 12 minutes before the final whistle on Wednesday night.
Never mind. Bafana's likely exit is not a national disaster. After all, the mighty Spanish might flunk out with us. And we can console ourselves with three more weeks of captivating Fifa World Cup action. Anyone for a Bavaria?