Monday, 28 June 2010

England players to be evacuated from South Africa by fleet of small ships

A rag-tag fleet of volunteer ships is assembling at Ramsgate for the purposes of evacuating the England football team from South Africa following their 4-1 defeat to Germany in the second round of the World Cup.

A spokesman for the FA said, “Even if Fabio Capello's reign lasts for a thousand years, men will still say that this was his finest hour.”

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The Whig Interpretation of Football

Apologies for the continued irregularity of posts. This is because my life, like a Jabulani ball, is incredibly difficult to control.

England's World Cup performance has fallen well below even my ultra-pessimistic expectations. It's not only the results, but every aspect of the performances, that has disappointed. We have been subjected to a sort of school playground shadow-football that Franz Beckenbauer has called “kick and rush.” The hit-and-hope long ball game has bypasses the central midfield and leaves out two of England's three truly world class players, Gerrard and Lampard. The only natural left-winger is the squad hasn't been on the pitch for so much as a minute. Argentina have Champions League winner Diego Milito on the bench. Brazil brought on Dani Alves as a substitute against Ivory Coast. Who do England have warming up on the touchline? Michael Carrick and Shaun Wright-Phillips.

At least all this has done much to dispel what we could call the Whig Interpretation of Football. The idea that the English, as the inventors of football, have a god-given right to win and are on a consistent path towards recapturing the “Spirit of '66” has in the last few days started to disappear from all but the most deluded football-patriots in the media. The four-yearly mantra that this time is our best chance since 1966 is being replaced by the realisation that England's best chance to win since 1966 was, and remains, Mexico 1970.

Nevertheless, the Whig Interpretation of Football clings on. How often do we hear that all England need to do is “warm up” and “get into their stride” to become world-beaters? Or it's the Italian manager playing a rigid formation and not allowing the players to be “creative.” We can expect a football-patriotic backlash to bring back an English manager. The determination to blame foreigners is shown in many of the comments here.

England are not the only team with their problems on the pitch. The response of the French players has been to go on strike at the way their Federation is being run, although this is probably a case of donkeys led by donkeys, as it is with England. This, of course, received far more media attention than the real and much more important strike of security stewards, one of many groups of South Africans for whom the World Cup has been bad news. The Spanish, on the other hand, bounced back by actually playing some football.

We can only hope.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

LEAKED: Niall Ferguson's plans for history curriculum

When the hell of Finals is over I'll write something serious about this, but until then...

Module 1 - How Britain made everything
Candidates will learn about the ingenuity of British entrepreneurs throughout the ages. The invention of the spinning jenny, the railways, motherhood and apple pie will be discussed.

A year of this course will bring children up to man-in-the-pub levels of knowledge, reciting facts like “We Used To Make Stuff In This Country” and “Things Were Better Back Then.”

Don't mention: Children working 16-hour days.

Module 2 - Empire: Good? Or Great?

Was the British Empire merely good, or was it the best thing ever? This is the question taken up in this exciting and challenging module. Empire definitely did not destroy cultures; there was nothing worth speaking of before Europeans got there anyway. It definitely did not create famines by tearing apart social and economic fabrics in short periods of time; they were just coincidences.

Children will be taught how to tell when something, for example the use of arbitrary violence to enforce power over an entire population, was an historical aberration, no matter how consistently it occurred.

The central theme of the module will be the indisputable historical fact that democracy and free commerce go hand in hand. Just ask the people of Chile.

Don't mention: Amritsar, the Opium Wars, the Black and Tans, Surabaja, the Malayan Emergency, etc, etc

Module 3 - From Churchill to Gove: Great men of history
In order to construct a forceful national myth/narrative, it is essential to study the lives of those we wish to emulate. This means people relevant to today, like empire-builders and statesmen, not anachronisms like trouble makers, rebels, trade unionists and the like.

Don't mention: Any of this.

Module 4 - The history of TV history
Candidates will be taught how to sensationalise events and be revisionist for the hell of it. Particular emphasis will be placed on how the 20th century was one long, contiguous conflict which can be conveniently be divided into separate episodes of a TV miniseries.

Other skills will include getting the most out of one's media connections, and learning how to pull off the smug smirk of the self-assured TV historian in front of camera.

Don't mention: Time Team.

Module 5 – Who would win in a fight between Orlando Figes and Robert Service?

This one's just for fun.