Political Promise

Ju Shardlow On… Lots of things about the ‘football’

In Ju Shardlow on June 21, 2010 at 8:25 am

This is in response to Vicky’s article yesterday

Well unlike Vicky, I do know about football. The only thing I can’t claim to know about the World Cup is the supporters’ mood in England (but thankfully I’ve got John Motson’s blog for that). My life has become CONSUMED by football. I believe that if you’re a real fan, you don’t phone up the BBC complaining about the 24/7 coverage as soon as we start losing. You don’t become ‘fed up’ because Terry et al go onto the pitch without passion, as Vicky suggested.

So why don’t I feel the despair of 90 minutes of poor passing and dehydration? Because I never believed we could win. The key is going into the tournament with the lowest expectations possible. Look at South Korea. The Asian fans have a wonderful tradition of sticking with their sport through thick and thin, never booing or complaining- hell, they even let off fireworks after losing 4-1 to Argentina. Everyone here is praying to get through to the second round, as that’s as far as they’ll get. Capello’s stripped-down campaign this year only increased the pressure on the players and we started genuinely believing we could win it. No, Galloway. No, Corden. Just no.

Any geography geek worth their salt loves the world cup. Mainly because we get to answer questions like ‘Where is Paraguay?”, and explain the lyrics to Nkosi Sikelel’i Afrika. I personally feed off the flags, like a sad multicultural limpet. Pundits forsee this world cup turning into a South America Fest. Yes, that could happen, but I’m just enjoying this utterly open first round. The sight of North Korea weeping at their national anthem was heartbreaking. Seeing Uraguay, New Zealand, Denmark etc impress reminds us of the cup’s controversial setting. If the nation post-apartheid taught us anything, it’s to embrace diversity.

Group C and G promise to be the nail-biters (as of 21st June). Eriksson could still sneak his boys through under a Brazil defeat of Portugal, while Bob Bradley could still get his promised triumph over England if we fail to beat Slovenia. Ones-to-watch Uruguay are quietly impressing and Germany have blasted through after some effective training, despite losing Ballack and Rolfes. Morel, Vera and Riveros are definite dark horses, as Paraguay stride towards the second round.

Granted, it was set to be a dull-as-hell contest, considering the lack of goals scored. But this has left us with a series of ‘must-win’ matches. Favorites Spain, along with the old Euro stalwarts of Italy, Portugal and England could lose out if they don’t start applying training tactics to matches. The nail really went in last Wednesday, with RSA on their last legs and the surprise Swiss triumph over Spain.

Don’t even get me started on France. Ungrateful, disrespectful, disloyal…what kind of a team puts friends over fans? France’s players refusing to train following Anelka’s expulsion from the squad for verbally abusing coach Raymond Domenech is a disgrace. No matter what Anelka said, the coach’s decision is final. He might be a nutcase, but it’s final. For the sake of the fans, get on with your job.  Apparently the French Football Association is inept and hasn’t properly protected its players. I see more of an undisciplined Association failing to keep its players egos in check. There needs to be a reshape at managerial level, but save it after you’ve put your best effort in on the pitch, please.

Maybe it’s this prophetic ‘lack of enjoyment’ that stalks the dressing rooms in SA. John Terry said this week that England need to relax and enjoy themselves in order to triumph, and rifts in the France camp certainly haven’t improved their soccer style. The fans will be able to forgive a losing performance if it’s a passionate one, and will leave people like Vicky with less of an empty feeling when reaching for the remote.

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