AMONG the more bizarre offerings to mark International Women’s Day on Sunday was a giant picture of Greta Thunberg’s face painted on a playing field.
The 190ft image of the controversial 17-year-old Swedish eco-warrior on the grass outside Hebden Royd primary school in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, was composed with line marker paint, usually used for setting out soccer pitches.
This grassy Greta is in a rather out-of-the-way setting. But what if the global warming lobby were to sponsor a major football tournament, with playing surfaces similarly repainted to honour Ms Thunberg . . .
‘Good afternoon and welcome to BT Sport. Now over to Anfield for the final of the Climate Change Cup between Liverpool and Manchester United, being played on the new Greta’s Face pitch layout. Here are your commentators, former Liverpool star Steve McManaman and Darren Fletcher.’
‘And it’s a lovely sunny day here at Anfield without a cloud in the sky. Right, Macca, straight to the big question on everyone’s lips: What about these new markings?’
‘Er, well Fletch, I dunno much about climate change or this Greta Thingybird, but I see she’s all over the pitch. Just like me in me playin’ days, eh? – I ran everywhere, I was unstoppable, no one could catch me.’
‘Yes, she’s also got a big head, Macca, 50 yards wide.’
‘Worra you sayin’ Fletch?’
‘Just joking, Macca. What do you think of Liverpool’s Liver Bird pitchside mascot being replaced by a bloke dressed as an Arctic Tern to highlight worries over polar ice?’
‘I don’t like it, Fletch. It’s a tern for the worse.’
‘And the name of the famous Kop stand being changed to COP26 to mark the upcoming Conference of the Parties climate-change talks?’
‘That’s not the worst thing, Fletch. The sponsors have also rewritten Liverpool’s anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone. The verse that says ‘walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain’ now reads ‘walk on through the ever more frequent anthropogenic extreme weather events’.
‘Bit of a mouthful, that, Macca. Well, Greta Thunberg was supposed to be here, but we’ve just heard that her yacht’s stuck on a sandbank in the Mersey and she’ll be late.’
‘She shoulda took the famous ferry across the Mersey, Fletch. Oh, she couldn’t, cos it runs on diesel.’
‘Right, it’s kick-off. Anthony Martial places the ball on Greta’s left nostril and Man United start the game.
‘The ball is passed to Luke Shaw, who boots it up the pitch to land on Greta’s blouse collar, but Mo Salah pounces on it. The Liverpool striker goes on a weaving solo run along Greta’s right pigtail, makes space for himself around her forehead . . . and shoots! But the ball soars straight along Greta’s centre parting and United goalkeeper David de Gea has no problem stopping it.
‘United launch a counter-attack and there’s a tussle around Greta’s right ear before Virgil van Dijk clears for Liverpool with a header along the bridge of her nose.
‘And now here’s Sadio Mane. The Liverpool superstar jinks across Greta’s eyebrow, along her left temple, shimmies over the top of her head and – GOAL!’
‘Worra goal, Fletch!’
‘But there’s a VAR check. Yes, you can see on the screen that Mane’s foot is just over the last follicle of Greta’s tightly-brushed locks. He’s offside by a hair’s breadth, Macca.’
‘Dunno about that, Fletch. I reckon they should comb through the footage again.’
‘Now United are on the move. Rashford jinks from Greta’s left eye to her right eye, then dashes down her cheek towards the Liverpool goalmouth by her neck. But just as he gets to the end of her plaits, he slips.’
‘He’s been upbraided, eh, Fletch? Get it?’
89 minutes later . . .
‘A minute to go and it’s all square here at 0-0. Remember, there’ll be no extra time because Greta thinks it might give people the idea there’s more time to save the planet.
‘Now Liverpool get a free kick just by her left eyelid. Trent Alexander Arnold steps up and whacks the ball right down the pitch. It bounces near a pimple on Greta’s chin and goes straight into the net. The final whistle blows.’
‘Spot on, eh, Fletch!’
‘Yes, great win for Liverpool. And now Greta Thunberg has reached the stadium and she’s coming on to the pitch to present the Climate Change Cup. It’s made of papier mache mixed from recycled free-range egg cartons manufactured with responsibly-sourced, organically-grown alfalfa farmed by co-operative growers in a carbon-neutral certified environment powered by wind turbines.’
‘Oh, boy, Fletch. Look at that rain! The sun was crackin’ the flags a minute ago.’
‘Yes Macca, it’s battering down at Anfield as Greta hands the cup to Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson. And – oh dear! The cup has disintegrated into a sloppy mess. And now Greta’s face is being washed off the pitch. What bad luck, eh, Macca?’
‘Yeah, Fletch. Shame about these anthropogenic extreme weather events.’