When You Lay Down With Dogs....

Human rights groups are expressing dismay over FIFA allowing Zimbabwes' despicable thug of a dictator, Robert Mugabe, to pose for cheerful, smiling photos with the World Cup trophy.

The trophy is being lugged around for display in every African country on a promotional tour sponsored by Coca-Cola, and Mugabe hotfooted it down to the airport along with "First Lady Grace" and their two "footie mad" kids to have a look.

While there, Mugabe made some typically inappropriate remarks about how since "Britain has no gold, neither does Germany" that therefore the cup was made using gold "probably from Zimbabwe" that was "stolen by adventurers" from the country where, as everyone knows, he alone is in charge of all stealing.

One can only imagine how the FIFA minders accompanying the trophy experienced a sudden tightening of the sphincter muscles when Mugabe, warming to the subject, regaled his assembled toadies by suggesting that maybe he should just keep the thing since it was the result of theft perpetrated by the white devils.

Almost anyplace else, in the hands of any other head of state, "not letting it leave" would be considered a polite little jest. When the country is ZImbabwe and the man holding it is Mugabe, it somehow doesn't strike the same note.

In the end though, Mugabe handed it back. Hopefully the handlers wiped the blood off of it before packing it away.

Then again, when it comes to being a cravenly evil bastard, it's hard to top North Korean Freakazoid Monster Kim Jong-Il. Compared to him, Mugabe is strictly an also-ran in the "Killing Your Countrymen and Stealing Everything for Yourself" sweepstakes.

So when the North of the 38th Parallel Koreans qualified for the Cup finals you just knew we were in for some truly distasteful hypocrisy, and it wasn't long in coming.

The problem is that FIFA gives every federation with a team in the World Cup a very precisely calculated 9.8 percent of the tickets for each of their matches, meaning that North Korea will receive something over 17,000 ducats for the three preliminary rounds.

But of course North Korea is a country where a good portion of the population literally eats grass and twigs to try and keep from starving to death and, as a result, to quote a typically understated British travel agent, "there is not a great deal of vacation business in North Korea".

He could have added that even if every citizen was suddenly given a free plane ticket to someplace the government wouldn't let them leave anyway, on the not at all irrational theory that they wouldn't come back.

(It should be noted that Kim himself is, of course, PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE for the team qualifying in the first place. The head of the DPRK Fed says "The Great Leader gave in-depth guidance on the development of Korean football. He proposed the game's tactics".)

Reportedly Kim will be bringing along 200 or so of his most loyal, fawning, bootlicking, groveling serfs to watch the team play. The balance of the tickets will be sold on the black market where, seeing as how they share a group with Brazil and Portugal, they are expected to fetch a pretty decent price.

This of course will be in direct violation of FIFA bylaws, a fact which FIFA will unquestionably ignore.

To add to the sad irony of all of this, the luck of the draw has England playing in a couple of the smallest venues in the tournament while North Koreea will be in some of the largest. For this reason, the FA will be given roughly 2000 FEWER tickets than North Korea, which has no intention of putting actual North Koreans in those seats.

Something to think about when the TV cameras zoom in on the 200 person Korean cheering section in the stands and implies that they're a representative sample instead of the entire contingent.

There's been a lot of discussion about how the hundreds of millions of dollars South Africa is spending to put on the World Cup isn't trickling down (to borrow a phrase) to the millions of desperately poor citizens of that country who need safe drinking water and infectious disease control much more than they need shiny new stadiums they'll never see the inside of.

If you happen to be one of those nattering nabobs of negativity, you can now rest easy.

South African website iafrica.com has helpfully posted a list of "12 ways YOU Can Make Money From the WC".

Unfortunately, the first suggestion is "Rent out your home", which is certainly a good idea if you have one, but alas, for the hundreds of thousands who live in squalor it's doubtful the average German or Dutch tourist is going to be interested, even if you include turndown service and mints on the pillows.

Other helpful suggestions include "Sell boerie rolls" which, I'm embarassed to say, I am unfamiliar with, and "Sell Vuvuzelas" which, unfortunately, I am familiar with.

The one I like best, however, is "Make money by betting". That's almost certain to help the poverty situation.

Unfortunately, they missed one that perhaps holds the most promise: Get ahold of Kim Jong-Il and offer to sell his tickets for him.