Remember this bloke? He was heroically, and ironically, dubbed ‘Eric the Eel’ at the Sydney Olympics after swimming a 100m freestyle in an empty pool… really slowly.

In 159 days, England meet San Marino again in the World Cup. England will win, by a lot, with San Marino’s band of all-but-one part-timers trying only to minimise the carnage.

Two different examples of epic mismatches on the world’s biggest stages, the Olympics and the World Cup, and the same result – embarrassment for those who shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. In saying that, minnows must be part of major sporting events, but in a way that benefits them and doesn’t detract from the prestige of the event.

The Olympics is on the right track – Equatorial Guinea’s Eric was standing on the blocks of a 50m pool for the first time, having trained in a river, and was part of a heat for developing nations.

Sadly for him the others supposed to splash up and down the pool with him got disqualified at the start, leaving ‘the Eel’ alone for the two laps and an eternity (or one minute and 52 seconds). That was just unlucky.

But San Marino are equal 207th in the world (the lowest possible), behind South Sudan. To have England playing two matches in an already ridiculously packed schedule against such a side is a waste of time, for San Marino as well.

Logic suggests San Marino should be in a tournament of their own with Liechtenstein, Andorra, Faroe Islands, et al playing for a berth against the big boys.

It’s just like in Oceania, where 10 or so teams including American Samoa and New Caledonia play-off to make it into the main qualifying phase.

There are still blow-outs, not as many since Australia rejoined Asia, but the damage is much less.

Fact is, the World Cup actually starts at qualifying and the show every four years is the finals. The small fries are part of the same competition by taking the field against anyone, so they should earn their shot against the heavyweights. Everyone would be a winner then.

Agree or disagree? Should rubbish teams be in the main draw?


KP’s back – now don’t be a twit

Kevin Pietersen’s back in the England squad for India after serving his penance for sending a naughty text about his now-retired skipper.

It’s about time this rubbish was sorted. I long for the days when the texts KP sent to his Saffa mates about Andrew Strauss would have been stupid comments in the pub.

Strauss could have clocked him one or given him a serve if he didn’t want to hurt his hand. KP would have said: “Sorry, that was a dick move.”

Strauss could say, “No worries” or tell him to bugger off – either way, it has sweet FA to do with cricket.

The FA’s new code of conduct is a load of rubbish, too. Not what it denounces and expects from players in a privileged position, just that it has to exist at all.

It’s tougher for some than others to be a normal member of society, but the whole document should just read, “don’t be a racist, sexist moron” – or, as Ashley Cole would tweet it, a “twat”.


Photo: Getty