LOG on to YouTube and, amid a plethora of Tim Nice-But-Dim sketches and Loadsamoney monologues, you'll find arguably Harry Enfield's finest work.
It is a football skit in which the Arsenal team of 1933 find themselves up against the Liverpool team of 1991, 'playing in black and white for the first time'. While the Arsenal team, captained by pipe-smoking Charles "Charlie" Charles, start off with the most honourable of intentions – handing out plates of sandwiches, applauding their opponents' goals, and knitting a scarf for the referee –it is only when they adopt the more cynical tactics of their modern-day rivals do they finally prosper, turning a 10-0 half-time deficit into an 11-10 win.
The sketch came to mind the other night. It had been a significant evening in the Champions League, but it was a goal scored in Denmark that dominated most of the post-match chatter. Nordsjaelland were hosting Shakhtar Donetsk when one of their players went down injured. Play was stopped, with convention dictating the Ukrainians would return the ball to their opponents as a matter of courtesy. Instead, the striker Luiz Adriano seized upon the long ball foward, danced around the bemused goalkeeper and rolled the ball into the net.
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The Danes were furious and their anger would rise further moments later. From kick-off, it looked as if they would be allowed to walk the ball in to cancel out the Adriano goal but only got so far before a defender stepped in to boot the ball clear. Shakhtar went on to win 5-2 but it was their first goal that everybody was talking about in the aftermath. One Nordsjaelland coach said the Ukrainians were "bandits" who were "without morals", while sporting director Jan Laursen took it a step further, adding: "I hope my boy was in bed by the time Shakhtar scored a goal of that character – that sort of thing doesn't belong anywhere".
UEFA were equally unimpressed, later charging Adriano with bringing the game into disrepute, while a Scottish former referee said he had been "sickened" by the Brazilian's behaviour.
They were just as furious in Sky's London studios where panellists Glenn Hoddle, Ray Wilkins, and John Collins all took it in turns to tut and shake their heads at Adriano's apparent lack of moral fibre. Collins even went as far to wonder why the referee hadn't intervened to chalk off the goal or to ensure the Donetsk players stood to one side to allow Nordsjaelland to stroll through unopposed to cancel out this highly dubious strike. It's what would likely have happened in Enfield's more civilised and genteel world of 1933.
The Danes' mixture of fury and disenchantment was comforting in a way. Previously, there had been a feeling that, when it came to putting the Corinthian spirit above all else, the British and Irish were out on their own. Now we know the Scandinavians are probably in the same boat, too. Call it a north-west European affliction.
The British, we can say for sure, would, by and large, rather skewer themselves with a sword than be seen to achieve an advantage by doing something sneaky or underhand. We don't understand diving. It is anathema to us. There are one or two exceptions of course but on the whole it is incompatible with our personalities, like skipping queues or showing affection in public to anyone but animals or children. We get so worked up about diving and other acts that go against the grain of sporting integrity that it consumes us for days on end. On the continent, and beyond, such acts pass largely without comment.
Players kicking lumps out of each other in our game is widely tolerated, even encouraged, but show us a player rolling over and over and we react with seething rage. It is the same with spitting. There are football pundits, guys who played the game for years, who will insist with a straight face it is the worst thing that can happen to you as a player, worse even than a double leg break, a fractured skull or a severed testicle.
It is hard to know whether it is noble or naive that us Brits and our neighbours can still be so shocked by such incidents. We have surely suffered enough by now to be able to deal with it better, to be willing to fight fire with fire. But we either can't or won't rise to the bait. Those who are happy to indulge in the dark arts tend to do so instinctively.
There were rumours for years that Serie A clubs finished their training sessions by practising their forward rolls but by and large gamesmanship is thought to be a trait inherent in some players that only comes to the fore when they see an opportunity to be exploited.
On this occasion, Adriano claimed he saw the ball arrive at his feet and "it triggered a striker's instinct". That may or not be true but it demonstrated that, for certain players, nothing is off limits. Nordsjaelland may well have gained the public's sympathy for what happened the other night, but it is Donetsk who are going through to the last 16. Who lost more from the whole sorry affair depends on your moral compass. Perhaps your nationality, too.