Sunday, 27 June 2010

Right, let's get on with the football

Well, it's over. To be specific, the 2010 Fifa World Cup is over for England.

And to be honest, it's a relief. I'm always torn when major tournaments come around: there's a side of me that really would like to see England do well, but there's a side of me that is always bloody relieved when then hype is over. Then I can get on and just enjoy the rest of the tournament.

And my support for England has always been rather iffy. Since Euro '96, there has been a real reclaiming of England for non-loons. And that's been good – very good. England – in terms of football at least – has become something that is no longer the misappropriated baby of the far-right, snubbed by the left as if it were some sort of poison.

If I potter down to Whitechapel for the shopping, I can see plenty of the locals – both those of Anglo-Saxon origin and those of Asian origin – with England shirts and flags on display. I like to think that, in my days of writing about sport professionally, I did a tiny bit to advance that change in attitude.

But then again, a match against Germany would always leave me particularly torn. As I explained some time ago, not only am I a Germanophile, but a particular part of that rests on my experiences of football and, specifically, my father's behaviour.

On Friday, over the phone and in a total blast-from-the-past moment, he railed about how "we need to beat the Nazis". It's rather too late to hope that he'll grow up. I refused to take the bait. Perhaps I can at least grow up.

Not that he's been alone – the British tabloids (English editions) have been at their usual game, harking back to WWII, a conflict that none (I'd vouch to suggest) of their staff will have even been alive during, let alone fought in.

It was quite easy today, as it happens. Germany have been – with the exception of one game – good. England have been poor. Really poor.

But I can't say I'm surprised. I don't understand where all this stuff about 'a golden generation' comes from. I really don't. And frankly, from the moment that qualifying was over, coach Fabio Capello didn't look to have much of a clue either.

Okay, he wasn't helped by injuries and the John Terry business. But the so-called talisman, Wayne Rooney, has been non-existent on the pitch except for his petulance, while Terry has shown exactly the same lapses as he showed after his sexual adventures were revealed in the media and he lost the captaincy of the national side.

And why, oh why, do successive coaches have such a love affair with Emile Heskey? He's an honest player, don't get me wrong. But as a forward, his strike rate is dismal, and if you are going to play him as the lone man up front, then you at least need wing play.

And Chris Waddle, in the moments after today's match, was right in highlighting the difficulty of teaching English players to play something other than the English (ie Premier League) game, which is played at such pace. It might be exciting – it is – but you do not win international tournaments playing like that.

The Other Half was, I think, at least halfway happy with the result too. If England had done as expected and qualified from their group in top spot, they'd not have played at 3pm this afternoon. Because they did, his rugby league club changed the time of their kick-off from 3.30pm to 11.30am! It meant that, even after spending money on train tickets, he couldn't get to Yorkshire in time.

Anyway, the very best of luck to Germany: they're a young team, but even with inexperience, they were a class (at least) above England today. I'll be rooting for them all the rest of the way.

And in the meantime, one thing that has struck me particularly this tournament is the idea that, if football is really the closest thing we have to a global religion, then even taking into account hooliganism, it's got far less fundamentalists than conventional religion – and they have a rather less 'impressive' record of atrocities than other religions.

1 comment:

  1. It was also good to see that the country didn't go into meltdown immediately after the result - people seemed happier to go out and enjoy the sun rather than trash the nearest vaguely Germanic sounding business.

    Chris Waddle really was worth listening to yesterday - both before and after the match.