On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

It’s always football season in merry England

The newspapers have been filled with nothing else but
football and football. And of course, the political turmoil faced by Prime
Minister Tony Blair. At last week's local council elections, Labour Party was
walloped by its rivals, the Conservative and Liberal Democrats. For the media
and Blair's enemies, this is the beginning of the end for Blair, who has been
the PM for three terms.

The knives were further sharpened when his deputy John
Prescott was exposed in a sex scandal. The deputy PM's secretary Tracey Temple
may have lost her job but she has made a fortune giving intimate details to the

meanwhile, is under immense scrutiny although he still keeps his £199,000 a
year job and the perks that go with it.

Politics is the same everywhere.

I decided to take a week's break in London
after covering Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's official visit
to Jamaica.

The plan was to watch the farewell Arsenal match against Wigan
at the 93-year-old Highbury stadium, where there has been many good memories
for the Gunners.

Determined as I was to be a part of history, the scalps
denied me that opportunity with their £400 a ticket cut-throat offer. I wasn't
prepared to pay, even if it meant missing Thierry Henry's supposedly last game
for my favourite team.

Strange as it may seem, I ended up in the Lion's Den in Old
Trafford instead, to watch Manchester United play Charlton Athlete, in what
could be described as an inconsequential game. Chelsea
and MU have after all kept the first and second spots in the championship.

But after I failed to get into Highbury, I could not say no
to an offer by AirAsia, a sponsor of MU, to watch the last match of the season
at Old Trafford, even if it meant taking a two-hour train ride to Manchester.

The low-cost carrier generated much excitement when its
Airbus, with faces of MU players on its body, flew into the industrial city.

Despite the foregone conclusion of the match, more than
73,000 people were at the stadium, one of the biggest crowds for the season. It
was simply fantastic, as a football fan, to watch stars like Rio Ferdinand and
Christano Ronaldo up close and personal.

But being the loyal Arsenal fan, I had to shout with delight
when it was announced that Arsenal had beaten Wigan 4-2
and Spurs had lost to West Ham 1-2. That meant that Arsenal was fourth.

The football fever continued unabated when England
finally got a true blue Brit Steve McClaren to be their coach. He has been
described as a boring fellow by the media. The merciless media tried to pin him
down on a sex scandal but found out he had broken up with his wife.

Never mind if he spends more time on the football pitch than
the bed, unlike his sex-scandalised predecessor Sven Goran Eriksson.

Patriotism is very much in the air with the English flag
fluttering on many cars. The colours of England,
whom many believe will do well in the World Cup, are being adorned everywhere,
from panties to party hats.

One shop in Oxford Street, selling jackets and suits, is
even offering a money back offer if England wins the Cup – all the customer
needs to do is to take up the offer before the finals starts.

Local analysts are saying that the football-mad season will
cost England
£1.3bil in losses as six million Britons are expected to call in sick during
the finals as businesses predict absenteeism, lateness and even drunkenness.

The selection of Arsenal's 17-year-old sensation Theo
Walcott for the team heading to Germany naturally grabbed the headlines as he
will be England's youngest international. When his coach called him up to tell
him the good news, the boy was busy taking his driving test, according to the

Everyone has predicted that Brazil
is going to keep the Cup but hey, style and samba alone are not enough in Europe.
You need technical skills and strategies.

I am putting my hopes on England,
even if it is cautious about its chances. Come on, England!