Political sketch: after the hors d'oeuvres, stuffed Murdoch

As theatre of anticipation it was wonderful.

College Green had more tents that a boy scouts jamboree as the world's press gathered for the ritual disemboweling of the Great Dictator .But when Rupert turned up it looked we might be just in time to celebrate his departure.

Floors had no doubt been strengthened and roofs raised in anticipation of the appearance of the ogre who frightened the world for almost half acentury but all that turned up was an 80-year-old man who looked as if he was missing his nap.

He turned up with his boy James and a cast of consiglieri who combined salaries probably make them worth more than the building the meeting was being held in.

It was a day of such excitement that the press was literally beside itself. The BBC, so often the target of Murdoch bile, even cancelled The Weakest Link to bring it to the nations attention.

As it was the best story of the day came in noises off and a right hander from Wendi Murdoch which is just as well as the rest if the performance will only look good in the edited highlights.

As theatre of anticipation it was wonderful. The Murdochs were due in the dock at 2.30 but kindly parliamentary authorities, mindful of their place in history laid on a wonderful hors d'oeuvres of a brace of seared and slightly sautéed policemen.

Not content with giving them a good kicking last week MPs had outgoing Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and John no-longer-of-the-Yard- Yates back in to quiz them further.

This High Noon confrontation allowed them to not answer why giving the former deputy editor of the News of the World Neil "Wolfman"
Wallis £1,000 a day for advice on PR will go down in history as the worst example of bad PR since Dave decided Andy Coulson should get the gig at Number 10.

There was one new revelation but this time not from the cops. Instead chairman Keith Vaz, as unctuous as ever, revealed he had something in common with the Met chief: namely he too was best pals with the health farm owner who provided £12,000 of free care to Sir Paul.

That out of the way the tricoteuse turned their attention to the promised main course, stuffed Murdoch.

It was obvious almost immediately that there wasn't much to nibble on the old scrawny bird but the young one had plenty of flesh on him.

Rupert tried to get in his apologies from the start: "This is the most humble day of my life," said the mogul who clearly had been practicing the unfamiliar "h" word but was quickly cut off by Culture Committee chairman John Whittingdale.

MP Whittingdale knew he had to get in quick since he has previous on Rupert having declared him his media hero.No sign of that here as stern John said statements would come later.

Instead he threw the ball to Labour's Tom Watson whose dogged determination over hacking has more than rescued what was in the past a moribund political career despite fears of waking up and finding a horse's head next to him in bed.

As Tom bared his teeth James valiantly tried to deflect his attention from his dad who was staring absent mindedly at the table. But Tom had been waiting a long time for his chance.

Did you not know what was going on in your own organisation demanded Tom. "Not really," was the less than energetic reply. In fact it became almost sad as the octagenarian seemed lost in thought as he tried to come up with answers.

Both Murdochs had clearly been told to keep their cool and they sat there like two of the wise monkeys (Rebekah, now cast into the outer darkness, was due on stage later.)

As it was squirming James ended up answering or dodging most of the questions from MPs who after this performance must never give up the day job whatever it is.

James, wearing one of those posh tans you don't get from a fortnight in Benidorm, has the posh American accent to go with it and had certainly learned the corporate "It wasn't me guv" mantra off by heart Rupert woke up now and again when the MPs were getting a bit hard on his boy but generally kept his head down and his poking finger flat under the watchful eye of the missus.

Did he accept responsibility for this fiasco. "No" was one of his more fulsome replies.Had he thought of quitting? "No" again as if anyone in Murdoch towers had even thought that idea a starter.

Time crawled by as committee members tried to ask the questions they must have overheard on the tube home but there was neither heat nor light until James was asked if his company had been picking up the legal bills of chief criminal Glen Mulcaire even after his prison sentence. The simple answer seems to be yes although the words uttered bore only a passing relationship to this fact.

James mumbled, his vowels shortened and dad looked alarmed. It was hard to know if this was a double act or a medical condition.

Then, in the best traditions of Fleet Street, the non-story rode to the rescue.

Despite the earlier presence of the nation's ex top coppers and security you felt was impregnable up popped a lad with a plate full of shaving cream. The cameras went off as tomorrow's headlines were written in white foam.

Cynics will say it was a News of the World stunt but that paper, as we know, is no more.

After a short break we resumed and Rupert was roundly thanked for staying around to dodge a few more questions.Then he went home.

Up next lonely and forlorn was the not quite so flame-haired ex-chief executive who only last week Rupert said he would defend to the hilt.

She seemed to be in denial as she talked about "our company" and "our response" The only friend Rebekah had with her was "my learned " there to make sure the hole she is already in gets no bigger.

Meanwhile Dave was in Nigeria.

Peter McHugh is the former Director of Programmes at GMTV and Chief Executive Officer of Quiddity Productions

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The World Cup you’ve never heard of, where the teams have no state

At the Conifa world cup – this year hosted by the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia – ethnic groups, diaspora communities and disputed territories will battle for footballing glory.

Football's European Championship and the Olympics are set to dominate the back pages over the next few months. How will Team GB fare in Rio? Will the zika virus stop the tournament even going ahead? Will the WAGS prove to be a distraction for the Three Lions? And can Roy Hodgson guide England to a long-awaited trophy?

But before the sprinters are in their blocks or a ball has been kicked, there's a world cup taking place.

Only this world cup is, well, a bit different. There's no Brazil, no damaged metatarsals to speak of, and no Germany to break hearts in a penalty shootout.  There’s been no sign of football’s rotten underbelly rearing its head at this world cup either. No murmurs of the ugly corruption which has plagued Fifa in recent years. Nor any suggestion that handbags have been exchanged for hosting rights.

This biennial, unsung world cup is not being overseen by Fifa however, but rather by Conifa (Confederation of Independent Football Associations), the governing body for those nations discredited by Fifa. Among its member nations are ethnic groups, diaspora communities or disputed territories with varying degrees of autonomy. Due to their contested status, many of the nations are unable to gain recognition from Fifa. As a consequence they cannot compete in tournaments sanctioned by the best-known footballing governing body, and that’s where Conifa provides a raison d’être.

“We give a voice to the unheard”, says Conifa’s General Secretary, Sascha Düerkop, whose world cup kicks off in the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia at the end of this week.

“We are proud to give our members a forum where they can put themselves on the map.

“From that we hope to give back in the long run and invest in the football infrastructure in our member nations to help them grow.”

The two week footballing celebration starts with an opening ceremony before Kurdistan and Székely Land kick off the tournament. It follows on from 2014’s maiden competition which saw The County of Nice avenging a group stage defeat to Ellan Vannin from the Isle of Man, to take the spoils in the final via a penalty shoot-out.  There were some blowout scores of note however, with South Ossetia smashing Darfur 20-0 and Kurdistan beating the Tamils 9-0 at the event which took place in Östersund, Sweden. Neither of the finalists will be returning to the tournament – throwing down the gauntlet to another twelve teams. 

This, the second Conifa world cup, is testament to the ever-expanding global footprint of the tournament. Abkhazia will welcome sides from four continents – including Western Armenia, the Chagos Islands, United Koreans in Japan and Somaliland.

Despite the “minor” status of the countries taking part, a smattering of professional talent lends credibility to the event. Panjab can call on the experience of ex-Accrington Stanley man Rikki Bains at the heart of their defence, and the coaching savoir-faire of former Tranmere star Reuben Hazell from the dugout. Morten Gamst Pedersen, who turned out for Blackburn Rovers over 300 times and was once a Norwegian international, will lead the Sapmi people. The hosts complete the list of teams to aiming to get their hands on silverware along with Padania, Northern Cyprus, and Raetia.

A quick glance down said list, and it’s hard to ignore the fact that most of the nations competing have strong political associations – be that through war, genocide, displacement or discrimination. The Chagos Islands is one such example. An archipelago in the Indian Ocean, Chagos’ indigenous population was uprooted by the British government in the 1960s to make way for one of the United States' most strategically important military bases – Diego Garcia.

Ever since, they've been campaigning for the right to return. Their side, based in Crawley, has crowdfunded the trip to the tournament. Yet most of its members have never stepped foot on the islands they call home, and which they will now represent. Kurdistan’s efforts to establish an independent state have been well-highlighted, even more so given the last few years of conflict in the Middle East. The hosts too, broke away from Georgia in the 1990s and depend on the financial clout of Russia to prop up their government.

Despite that, Düerkop insists that the event is one which focuses on action on the pitch rather than off it. 

“Many of the nations are politically interested, but we are non-political,” he says. 

“Some of our members are less well-known in the modern world. They have been forgotten, excluded from the global community or simply are ‘unpopular’ for their political positions.

“We are humanitarians and the sides play football to show their existence – nothing more, nothing less.”

The unknown and almost novel status of the tournament flatters to deceive as Conifa’s world cup boasts a broadcast deal, two large stadiums and a plush opening ceremony. Its aim in the long run, however, is to develop into a global competition, and one which is content to sit below Fifa.

“We are happy to be the second biggest football organisation,” admits Düerkop.

“In the future we hope to have women’s and youth tournaments as well as futsal and beach soccer.”

“Our aim is to advertise the beauty and uniqueness of each nation.”

“But the most important purpose is to give those nations that are not members of the global football community a home.”

George Weah, the first African winner of Fifa World Player of the Year award remarked how “football gives a suffering people joy”.

And after speaking to Düerkop there’s certainly a feeling that for those on the game’s periphery, Conifa’s world cup has an allure which offers a shared sense of belonging.

It certainly seems light years away from the glitz and glamour of WAGs and corruption scandals. And that's because it is.

But maybe in a small way, this little-known tournament might restore some of beauty lost by the once “beautiful game”.