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.

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