Desert Outtakes: Man of the people Richard Keys needs to get out more and a US pundit’s Wilde assumptions

‘Avocado head’ wants nation’s trust and Kaka doesn’t hold back on Brazilian legend Ronaldo

Keys needs to get out more

Jim White (the writer, not the former Sky Sports News fella) is not, it might be fair to say, a fan of Richard Keys. “To watch him in action is to be reminded that the smugness quotient on British sports broadcasting has been significantly diminished by his departure,” he wrote in a sizzler of a Telegraph piece the other day on Keys’s World Cup work with beIN Sports.

Routinely, wrote White, Keys refers to this as “The People’s World Cup”, “which is an interesting definition of something organised by the partnership of a medieval theocracy and the least accountable sporting corporation in the world”.

He was especially amused by Keys’s claim that there are no ticket touts at this “People’s World Cup”, White himself having witnessed dozens of them in action near Fifa’s ticketing office in Doha. “But then Keys is probably unaware of this,” he said, “he doesn’t appear to get out much.” Ow.

Meanwhile, the latest from Qatar: “Tickets for England’s World Cup clash with France are selling for £10,000 – with some desperate fans paying 28 times the face value.”


Ah, true, Keys needs to get out more.

‘Avocado head’ wants nation’s trust

Ahead of Morocco playing Belgium in their group, their coach Walid Regragui called on the nation to get behind the team, to show faith in them.

“Energy plays a role in football,” he said. “When people show good faith, the ball will hit the bar and enter. But if some are saying: ‘Look at this avocado head, he talks too much,’ and show bad faith, the ball will hit the bar and go out.”

Avocado head? What? That, apparently, is what some of Morocco’s football people dubbed Regragui when he replaced Vahid Halilhodzic as coach in August, his limited enough managerial CV not overly impressing them.

He chuckled back at his detractors, even posing with an avocado with a mini football in the middle, like you do, while having the habit of patting his bald head, which earned him the moniker in the first place.

If Morocco manage to beat Portugal in Saturday’s quarter-final, there’ll probably be a statue of an avocado erected in every town in the country.



“It’s strange to say this, but many Brazilians don’t support Brazil. If you see Ronaldo walking around here [Qatar], you’ll be like, ‘Wow!’ In Brazil, he’s just a fat man walking down the street.” - Kaka. Crikey.


The percentage of penalties missed or saved, including in shoot-outs, up to the World Cup quarter-finals. It looks so easy from the couch too.



“I don’t know why and I don’t understand it, but I’m sure we’ll have the answers from God later – he doesn’t fail, let’s see.”

Elma Aveiro waiting for divine intervention to explain why Portugal dropped her little brother, Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Instead of being in Qatar, I am here in the rain. But hey, that’s life.”

Vahid Halilhodzic on what might have been, the Bosnian having been replaced as Morocco coach in August having led them to World Cup qualification.

“I remember that Giroud was cheerful, the guy who always liked to show off in front of the mirror and got high on himself.”

Andrey Arshavin on his fond memories of Olivier Giroud from their Arsenal days.

“Kylian is world class, it’s difficult to defend against him. You have to go to bed early.”

French defender Dayot Upamecano suggesting that England will need a good night’s sleep if they are to have any hope of coping with Mbappé. They might have nightmares, though.

US pundit’s Wilde assumptions

Highlight of US coverage of the World Cup thus far: it must surely be Fox Sports’s Tom Rinaldi’s take on you-know-who being dropped by Portugal.

“There’s only one thing worse than being talked about – and that’s not being talked about. The iconic Irish writer Oscar Wilde said that. I don’t know if he was a soccer fan, but he definitely would have been a fan of Cristiano Ronaldo.”

While most responses went along the lines of “huh?”, our own Chris O’Dowd opted for: “Come back tomorrow to learn what William Butler Yeats really thought about Mbappé.” And this most excellent offering from a Barry Duffy: “Samuel Beckett is at Doha International, waiting for Dalot.”

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times