The Antagonist - Football might never come home
Published: 23 Jul 2010 - 09:11:32
Now the dust has settled and all the so called experts have had their say as to why, once again, England failed to live up to expectations at the South African World Cup, we maybe have to face up to the unpalatable fact that football may never be coming home.
Yes, we need a winter break. Yes, we need to limit the number of foreign players in the Premier League. Yes, we really need a quality English manager. Yes, we need to encourage and nurture the promising youngsters who, at present, are being stifled and denied adequate opportunities to shine. But, is the tackling of these issues enough to guarantee future success?
I don't think so.
And the reason I don't think so can be summed up in one word. 'Globalisation'.
Let me explain. It is open to historical debate, but informed wisdom suggests that football like tennis, cricket, golf and many other popular sports originated on these shores.
Golf can be traced back to ancient farming communities in Scotland in the 12th century, cricket put down its roots a little later in the 16th century and our beloved national game became an organised pastime in the 1800s when tennis also took shape as the game we know today.
So, having invented these games, we generously decided to share them firstly, to the member countries of the British Empire and then, further afield, to all corners of the world, with football as the flag bearer of this initiative.
Maybe to describe it as 'sharing' gives too much credit to the real rationale behind 'spreading the football word'. It is highly likely that it was seen as a means of further demonstrating our global domination, reinforcing the British world power base and feeding the self conceit and sense of superiority over the rest of the World that existed in those far off colonial days.
Foreign countries were cannon fodder that fed our burgeoning ego. Then things started to go wrong. The rest of the World got a bit fed up with 'rolling over' and started to get their acts together.
Little chinks in England's armour began to show, exemplified to good effect when, in the early 1950s we suffered a surprising 1-0 defeat to the USA in the World Cup finals and endured an embarrassing 6-3 pummelling by Hungary at Wembley. We had initiated the globalisation of football and it had come back to bite us on the bum.
In the 60 years since those twin embarrassments, we, as a country, have won one tournament. You could argue that even that was with home advantage and thanks to a one eyed linesman with a political axe to grind.
Similarly, our global tennis status has become a standing joke and, despite a recent resurgence, partly due to an influx of Irish and South African imports, our cricket ranking has dipped alarmingly.
We have to accept that we do not have a divine right to win the World Cup or Euro Championship just because we thought up the game in the first place.
The French have suffered a similar fate with the Tour de France which they launched on the World in 1903. They monopolised the yellow jersey for the first six years of the event but haven't had a winner in the last 26 years since the rest of the planet woke up to the financial benefits and kudos attached to winning the biggest pushbike race in the World.
And, rather more obscurely, the Scots, who came up with the somewhat bizarre concept of Elephant Polo 28 years ago, obviously in the mistaken belief that no one else would be interested, surrendered their title this year in Thailand. Shame!
So what is the answer? My suggestion is to write off international football as a no-hoper and, instead, invent a new game; possibly a hybrid of some of the major games (football, cricket, and tennis) which have fallen foul of the global equalisation effect.
We could call it something appropriate like 'Foct' and, here's the clever bit, just as the USA have the World Series that is only played for by teams from the USA, we keep it to ourselves. That way, we can guarantee regular success without any danger of upstart emerging African countries or unpronounceable former USSR states springing a surprise.
It would also enable the Lightning Seeds, Baddiel and Skinner to reprise their evocative 1998 anthem with slightly altered lyrics.
"It's staying home, it's staying home, it's staying..Foct is staying home"
Unless, of course, anyone out there has a better idea?
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