Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The not very beautiful game


I fell out of love with football a long time ago.  This was partly due to the fall from grace of my team Ipswich Town, after years of glory.  However it is mostly due to the way the game has changed.  In the seventies when the Town were riding high under Bobby Robson the game was played by men.  Defenders were big, intimidating, hard men like Tommy Smith, Ron “Chopper” Harris and at the Town we had “Big Al” Hunter.  To play against these men, forwards had to be tough too, in those days footballers didn’t like to show pain and we kids having a kickabout in the park wouldn’t show pain either.  Nowadays we see the likes of Ronaldo writhing around in apparent agony if someone so much as steps on his shadow.

Although I always follow the Town’s results through the season I no longer feel the pain of defeat nor does it bother me if their East Anglian rivals do well.  However until fairly recently I have found myself passionately involved when the England team plays.  For my whole life, whenever England played in a major tournament I had an unshakeable belief that they would find a way to win.  This belief would not diminish until they were finally eliminated from whichever tournament they were playing in.  In 1990, 1996 and to some extent 1998 our exits were heroic, we retained a sense of pride in our team.  Since then we’ve gone out with a whimper. The 2010 World cup was the turning point, the standard of play was pathetic and our exit was an embarrassing thrashing by the Germans of all teams.  This was a low point in English football and one from which we’ve never recovered.

Euro 2012 has seen an improvement.  England played reasonably well in the group games and qualified as group winners.  For 45 minutes we held our own against a decent Italian team but then we ran out of gas.  The second half and all of extra time saw a piss poor performance which was excruciating to watch and the Italians deserved their penalty win.  Nowhere near as embarrassing as 2010 but we were out all the same.

What I don’t understand is how we can have such a competitive domestic league yet be so mediocre on the international stage?  Apparently all four teams that have reached the semi finals have a mid winter break in their seasons, does the English team just run out of gas?  Is the FA interested in the performance of the national team or is this of secondary importance behind making millions of pounds with the premier league?  After our atrocious showing in the 2006 Ashes the ECB commissioned an inquiry, now we have the best cricket team in the world.  Will the FA hold a similar inquest?

Finally, although I’m no longer a great football fan these days, I have watched a lot of matches over the last forty years.  Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Kevin Keegan, Trevor Brooking, Kevin Beatie (who remembers him?), Peter Shilton, Gary Lineker, Brian Robson, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer and David Beckham were all great players.  Wayne Rooney is nothing like a great player, not even close.  If that scouse fucktard is the best we’ve got then we’re screwed.

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