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As the familiar air of helpless dismay causes Britain’s talk radio station switchboards to short circuit, fans further afield are saying ‘enough is enough’ slightly more proactively.

Forsaken the need to qualify for a tournament they have never before graced, Austria’s national team have not so much been warming up, as melting down. Without a win this year, a section of embarrassed fans have called for the side’s withdrawal from Euro 2008.

The ‘Österreich zeigt rückgrat!’ (Austria, show some backbone!) campaign foresees a competition enriched by the absence of a side who, just this month, lost meekly to the clockmaking bankers next door.

In America, swimming similarly against the tide are The Sons of Ben, dedicated followers of a football club which doesn’t exist. Adopting a ‘build it and they will come’ outlook, the Philadelphians are trying to persuade Major League Soccer bigwigs to conjure up a brand new team in the city.

As if to prove that the lack of a side of their own is no obstacle to healthy rivalry, they recently took themselves to New York to give their unattached colours an airing and, more understandably, bad-mouth the locals.

rbny007In a corner of East Rutherford, the concrete shithole they call home, Red Bull have spent this season bringing a whole new meaning to the term ‘average attendance’. Despite reaching the climactic play-offs beloved of American sport, soccer crowds at Giants Stadium have been so underwhelming, its 80,000 capacity will next season be capped at just 15,000.

By comparison, tomorrow’s opponents – play-off hopefuls LA Galaxy – often see extensive queues outside their 27,000-seat Home Depot Center, although many of those probably turn up mistakenly anticipating a decent deal on shelving units.

As if those figures aren’t enough to turn Red Bull green with envy, when LA brought David Beckham to town it attracted what Jim Bowen might have called a ‘here’s what you could’ve won’ gate of over 66,000.

It would be appropriate if he had, because Beckham – like Bully’s Star Prize – has otherwise been about as much use to LA as a speedboat in a council flat.

Neither of the regular readers of these pages will require introduction to Austria Salzburg’s have-a-go heroes, and will be delighted to learn that the side will head the country’s sixth division into the winter break with a game to spare.

A hard-earned victory at former leaders Obertrum preceded three, four, and five-goal drubbings of Hof, Liefering, and Salzburg – who not only share a city with our violet friends, but play on an old stomping ground of theirs.

Ever the innovators, themed fan events have lately seen a Bavarian-style Oktoberfest and a Mexican chill-eating contest stretch Austria Salzburg’s two portaloos to the limits of their capabilities.

A proposed English football theme day will shortly do likewise, as the club’s ownership is taken from fans and placed into a range of anonymous offshore trusts, just for the sheer hell of it.

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