By Vicky Wong
Unlike many females, I am willing to admit that I don’t know the first thing about football (a male friend of mines told me whilst watching the US-England match, a girl in their company in the final stages of the match went “if it continues at this rate it will go to penalties”). I would be open to anyone who can explain the offside rule.
The South Africa World Cup has been one in which England fans pre-empted victory on the cards. But after two games and high expectations, that support has turned into bitter disappointment and anger.
An article in the Economist a few weeks ago had a rather bleak forecast of England’s performance in their first match and the rest of the tournament (note that the June 12th-18th edition was sent out in the morning of the match, which took place at 1930 GMT). The Bagehot article in question stated that in the previous world cup tournaments, the England squad were at the top of their game, with the glitz and glamour of the footballing lifestyle, a time where WAGS were the belles and first ladies of the country, and a time where English footballers were seen as the national heroes and came to personify the underdog success stories of a generation. English football never had it so good.
But, as the saying goes, all good things come to an end as the British economy went from boom to bust. The glory days of English football were no more; like the expenses scandal that hit the British Parliament, scandals of the debauchery and sensationalism were the ones that would spell further woes for the England team, and footballers spend their living kicking a ball came increasingly under fire for the extortionate salaries. Like the many resignations of MPs after the expenses furore, the footballing world also saw the dismissal of John Terry as England captain, and even the catastrophic financial situation of Portsmouth’s football team. It also poignantly saw the re-emergence of David Beckham (i.e. the Lord Mandelson of English football) as a mentor and a reminder to England fans that he is still around (as Lord Mandy once said “if I can come back, we can come back!”)*
Despite George Galloway’s patriotic hope on BBC’s Question Time to see John Terry lift the World Cup, this is far from the atmosphere that hung amongst England fans after the US match, and the mood was further exacerbated after the Algeria match.
England’s poor performance has been blamed on a few things, the new ball (a tarnish to Loughborough University who created the new ball), the never-ending Vuvuzela Philarmonia performing Vuvuzela symphony no. 1 (composed by the footballing crowds with a duration of 90 minutes depending on tempo and entirely unconducted), Capello’s last minute announcements of who will play and many others.
The blame game goes on…so much so that everyone has switched off the World Cup, and viewers are beginning to complain to the BBC of the 24/7 ramming down your throat coverage of the World Cup. Why people are so fed up of the World Cup over here is simply down to the fact that we are just sore losers. Had England started performing better, then maybe those viewers who have complained about the amount of World Cup coverage would stop complaining.
England fans are no happier, having paid painstaking amounts of money to fly to South Africa to support the team and being met with nothing but one disappointment after another, with some fans leaving early. But tensions reached the high point when Rooney in the heat of the moment criticised the booing England fans on camera in an almost Gordon Brown like blunder reminiscent of Bigot-gate.
Sporting events serve to unify nations, and the England team has symbolically divided theirs. After Rob Green’s blunder, the subsequent days were quite simply testimony to the media as a machine for prolonging negative sentiment. British patriotism appears to be at stake.
It would be rather naive to assume that “it’s the taking part that counts”, but when opinion polls for the team have reached the all time low, the capabilities and legitimacy of Capello and the team comes under scrutiny, a snap rethink of the team is in order (unfortunately not through a democratic election, but it can be assumed that the public have assented to a vote of no confidence).
What we can learn from England is this, we now know how it feels for football teams that consistently lose in World Cups (again like all females, I can’t name a team at the top of my head, I have more pressing things to worry about *coughemergencybudgetcough*).
*Note that credit for the Lord Mandelson/David Beckahm reference goes to the Bagehot article in the Economist.