This is the football future we were all hoping for

Credit: SHUTTERSTOCK, REUTERS, GETTY IMAGES

World Cup 2014 had disappearing referee spray, World Cup 2010 the vuvuzela, World Cup 1994 a golf buggy to cart off injured players.

The European Championships has lagged behind in the race for meaningless tournament ephemera. Until now.

Euro 2020/21 hadn’t even kicked when its contribution to the museum of useless plastic was unveiled. After a socially distanced opening ceremony, so inessential BBC One decided to leave it in red button purgatory, the build-up to Turkey vs Italy ramped up.

The usual tunnel cam, some national anthems, team photos. Business as usual.

A nice man in a nice suit arrived to remove the football from its ceremonial plinth, itself a pretty risible bit of pomp to which we’ve grown indifferent.

Credit: BBC

Surely now he’s on his way to the centre circle but hang on…

Credit: BBC

Who’s this?

Credit: BBC

Why, it’s a small car! Which seems to be remote controlled. It’s actually quite a large car, as remote controlled cars go. The sort you might let a toddler ride on, the day before social services pay you a visit. The ball is duly placed lovingly into the car hole.

Credit: BBC

After a glorious moment when it appeared to have stalled, it set off in the familiar insect-like jerking style of all remote-controlled vehicles.

Credit: BBC

It’s off! Arcing gracefully towards the centre circle. It’s really making light work of that playing surface. Must be tyres. Are those the news Pirellis? The three inchers? Nice tyre. Nice.

Credit: BBC

You have reached your destination. Good job, little fella. Now all that’s let is for the match official to bend over, thank you profusely and wonder why this wasn’t a module on the course at ref school.

Another nifty turn and our new friend disappeared out of shot, presumably to be seen again before Wales vs Switzerland

Only questions remain.

How was this allowed to happen?

Imagine the meetings at the car company’s advertising agency. Premium football money at stake and the pressure of an extra year to come up with your big pitch. Sponsored drive-in cinema? Gearsticks for every dugout? Monkey tennis? How about we put our logo on a little car and it drives the ball on for kick-off? The terrified realisation that the boss was legtimately keen on your joke idea. No backing down now. 

How was it kept a secret?

Unusual for any corporate tie-in to come without weeks of promotion and increasingly panicked marketing messages. This was seemingly a total surprise. BBC commentator Guy Mowbray took the development entirely in his stride, astonishing work for a surprise drop on the level of a Taylor Swift album, or Tony Adams on Steve Morrow after the 1993 Coca Cola Cup final.

Who’s driving this thing?

A human, you’d hope. Given the slow start perhaps there’s an input lag and they’re not even in the stadium? Our best guess is they’re in the room next to the Uefa Var lads at their secretive base carved out of a volcano, in Nyon. Self-driving remote controlled cars surely some years away from being viable, but give Elon Musk time, he’s very busy tweeting. 

What happens when it runs over a footballer?

Seems inevitable, it came very close to nobbling the Turkey player loitering in the centre circle as its made its exit. Going to be a fun injury update in the match previews when it does happen. Out: Ozan Kabak (thigh), Burak Yilmaz (ankle), Caglar Soyuncu (hurt by little car).

Is there a precedent?

Surprisingly, yes. How quickly we forget London 2012, and this helping hand for the hammer:

Can we get a heatmap?

We’ve tried, but Opta seem to be ignoring our calls.

Can you bet on it?

Almost certainly. Half a monkey on the car to win 3.5 or over 1st half corners, each way. (If you’re actually considering this please take it as a sign that ‘the fun’ has well and truly stopped).

Can you buy it?

Not yet. But soon. Surely.  People want it! Euros fever! Everybody loves the car! Vote for it as a novelty candidate in your next local election!

Is this effective advertising?

See above. And put it this way: no-one’s talking about emissions scandals this morning. 

Is this the end of football?

Almost certainly. Declare it all null and void, and if anyone asks in the years to come: Volskwagen won.