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Archive for June, 2010

A natural disaster every bit as debilitating as an Icelandic ash cloud is about to envelope England. It happens every four years and it goes by the name of World Cup failure fallout.

It begins with the onset of national fervour fuelled by wanton jingoism. It is triggered by column inches of coruscating hope.

As the condition takes hold, the tell-tale symptoms include a rash of flags of St George on every white van, family sedan, rooftop, shop front and crisp packet across the land. At its height, normally just a few days into the tournament, it infests all it touches – home and abroad. Dashed promise has turned to abject despair and there is no cure.

And yet, it could all be so different if only for a dose of reality and a spoonful of common sense.

If only there was an acceptance that England has no divine right to win a World Cup. A recognition that Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard and Co should not be mentioned in the same breath as Ronaldinho, Messi and Ronaldo.

And, most of all, an acknowledgement that 1966, home ground advantage, lucky breaks and optically-challenged Russian linesmen, should be consigned to sepia. For good.

If only there was a realization that Rooney is a red card waiting to happen, Lampard is an overpaid braggadocio with seriously limited footballing ability and Gerrard, an alleged motivator of men, cannot string two syllables together let alone a sequence of passes.

If only England could embrace the idea that its national soccer team is likely to fall short on a world stage – again – the tournament would be infinitely more enjoyable for the rest of us.

In the UK, hospital emergency wards would see a drop-off in cases of clinical depression and incidences of public house and domestic violence would shrink. Bar owners and random passers-by on the streets of Bloemfontein would be spared criminal damage and aggravated assault.

The roots of England’s misplaced optimism stem from that vainglorious day in 1966 when Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy at Wembley.

Ever since, deluded England supporters take it as read (those that can), that they will rule the soccer world every four years. Tabloids implore the nation’s bricklayers and plasterers to ‘support the lads’, swill strong lager and urinate on all things un-English in the name of patriotism.

The English media ensnares it prey in a web of zealotry in the interests of an audience spike only to poleaxe the coaching staff and players from their pedestals at the first whiff of futility. And all the while the strap lines tell of a miscarriage of sporting justice at the hands of Johnny Foreigner.

For over 40 years, it has been a familiar pattern. Reckless hope leading to humiliation and despondency.

When England depart the current World Cup in South Africa, probably at the quarter-final stage, players who incur the wrath of officialdom (Wayne Rooney please note), will have their effigies torched on fickle English High Streets – Mumbai-style.

Referees will receive death threats and ‘fans’ will revert to their tribal hatred for the very same players from opposing club teams who wore the three lions of their country in Joburg, Durban et al.

The much-lauded Fabio Capello, will have questions raised in the Commons about his £6million annual salary and White Van Man will pour bile on Don Fabio’s foreignness, his commitment to the cause and the ‘lads’.

His failure to transform a bunch of talentless, gormless egos into a crack unit of world-beating sportsmen, will be the subject of rainforests of post mortem.

Drunken, balding, tattooed, obese adult males will be reduced to weeping babes, wives will be beaten, law enforcement officers will be targeted for retribution, and a prolonged period of mourning will ensue.

The Daily Mail’s Des Kelly, one of the few pundits to swim against the tsunami of optimism, summed it up best in borrowing the John Cleese quote from the film Clockwise.

‘It’s not the despair – I can take despair,’ said Cleese. ‘It’s the hope I can’t stand.’

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