The football (soccer) divorcees have remarried now that the World Cup is over, for another four years.
I had not been particularly interested in the runup to the World Cup Final because my beloved country did not make it. Senegal and Nigeria were the only teams from Africa proper so they were deserving of my surrogate support. The others from North Africa who consider themselves Arabs, not Africans, were not getting my support. Senegal has always had my support, even when my country has made it because they are the only African country to have an African manager. If we don’t make room for African managers to come through, who is going to give them the chance? However, the country of negritude has not brought that into its football with its naivety and diffidence to their European opponents. I still supported Senegal as my ‘home’ team, then Nigeria.
Hopefully, one day, not just Senegal but all the African countries will bring ‘consciousness’ and African managers to their games. That is when they realise that football is not a game of twenty-two whinge bags kicking a windbag. It has political and racial undertones.
My other interest, not my support, was in England. This is because I live in England. The reason why England only gets my interest is that England, since 1966, has failed to deliver at every football tournament in spite of the hype. Arguments continue to rage even today over that England win in the summer of ‘66 and I have no doubt it will continue till the end days.
When the tournament got underway, I must say, I got unduly over-excited by the wall to wall football, at least for the first few days and over-indulged. That was my undoing. The glut of football over those few days was such that by the time England entered the fray, I had had so much football and lost my appetite. Talk about not pacing myself.
On the day that England played their first match against Tunisia, I deliberately left work late with the expectation that there would be very little or no traffic. My expectation was based on my reasoning that most English people — note how I did not say British people — would be glued to their TV sets. I was wrong. There was traffic. Perhaps it was caused by the rest of the British people. Perhaps it was caused by the rest of the English people who, having endured disappointments with their team over the years, were playing down their hopes and expectations. To be honest, this was not an England team to write home about. There were many images on social media which were not flattering. A particular one depicted the England plane on the tarmac in Moscow with its engines on. The English team was not exactly a Potemkin Village but it was a lot of bluff and hype which even the English could not bring themselves to believe. So it took me the same time as it normally took and by the time I got home, the match was over and England had won, England had scraped home.
Having got Tunisia out of the way, the English started to believe that barring any banana skins in the form of Panama, their way was clear. Six points wa safety. Panama had dumped the United States prompting some Americans to ask, how can a country like Panama with a small population do that to a country the size of America? In these days of Trump, low information Americans, not all of them, I might add, see everything in terms of America First. It’s not about size, stupid. Croatia, one of the finalists is smaller than Panama.
With the glut and my loss of appetite, I just took the occasional interest in the tournament but I could not get away from England, they were everywhere. The flags of Saint George were everywhere. What did I expect? Then Panama. I wished that they would give England a reality check like Iceland did in the Euros but by halftime, the game was over and I went to cut my grass. I thought that even Cowdenbeef (Cowdenbeath) could have given England a stiffer test. That was when the English started to believe. They had six points and if they came second in the group, they could have an easier path to the final. They fielded what they consider to be a weaker side against Belgium and lost. That did not stop the radio stations blaring out, ‘It’s coming home..’ you know the song I mean. It started to grate then get on my wick. Seemingly but unbelievably, it started to look like England could actually win the World Cup. Then it started to get painful. Painful like the wincing pain you get when you want to urinate but can’t quite find a place to do so and as England got closer a possibility of that reality, you were on the verge of peeing in your pants.
The thing is, if they were going to win it and give us something to cheer about or remember, then it wouldn’t be that painful. You will have to hand it to them. The reality is, watching England has never been and is never going to be like a footballing banquet, is it? It is more like eating stodge with the occasional gristle and that gristle cheers up England no end. Imagine if they had steak? The English cannot score for toffee from open play except when they are up against minnows like Panama. They cannot get away from the summer of ’66 and have not moved on. All of a sudden, they began to have this sense of entitlement. It is fifty years since they won it and somehow, it was their turn to win it(have it). It is the same mentality that prevails during the European Championships. They merely have to turn up at tournaments to win it simply because they think they invented the game. It doesn’t work that way, no one told them. Alright so the English may have given the world football and definitely the English Language but the reality is that the foreigners play the game better and speak the language better. Why? Because they do not hoof both the football and the language hoping that somebody gets it. They care about the construction, the precision and want to give joy through expression. Listen to a typical Englishman speak the language with grammatical hopscotch and you will get my drift.
The English handle the football like a hot potato and can’t wait to give it to somebody else. Some have blamed this on the influx of foreign players which has retarded the development of English players. It might be true but it cuts both ways. Before the influx the of the foreign players, the English players were no better. So that can be easily dismissed You would then think that with the influx of the foreigners, they might up their game. No, they haven’t. The crux of the matter is, there are no technically gifted English players. Take the most talked about English player of recent times, David Beckham. This is a player who could only kick with one foot and could not dribble to save his life. The sober neutral will tell you that take his free kicks away from him and you could have ended up with David Batty, yet he was revered. In the absence of English talent, all you hear from English pundits about English players is pace. What they cannot see or grasp is that the quality of the midfield player is instrumental in determining the outcome of games. They do not have a top midfield player. All the top midfield players in the top teams in the English Premier League are foreigners, from ‘two hearts’ Ngolo Kante through Erikson, David Silva, Pogba, Emre Chan, Mahrez to De Bruyne. The only Englishman who would have cut the mustard would be James Milner. It is these midfielders who provide the guile and cutting edge passes for the likes of Stirling and Kane to score their goals. Without them, the English were left high and dry at the World Cup. So unless the English can redress this shortcoming, they are on a hiding to nothing and football will not be coming home any time soon.
With the United Kingdom in the quagmire of Brexit, the World Cup was supposed to give the English a lift. Something to cheer them up and bring the country together since their ratings in the world has received such a panning. I have always held that nothing unites the English like football and war. Of late, they have not done very well in either except when they face minnows. So they send troops to Serra Leone but do nothing when they claim Russians administer Novichok on their territory. Politics has the habit of intervening when not wanted.
Let stick with and continue with the football.
I did catch some of the other football, in bits, especially the match between Argentina and France. Wasn’t it odd? Here was a European country fielding a team seventy per cent of African origin. Against them was a South American country with links to slavery-like nearly all South American countries but totally white European with nobody of African origin. In fact, no Argentinian team has had a black player or player of colour in it. Have there not been black people in Argentina? Of course. So why the total European composition of the Argentine team? The answer is simple. From 1865, there was a deliberate government policy in Argentina to exterminate the black population. Those black people who did not die fled to Brazil for safety. Is it any wonder that Nazis fled to Argentina? Next time you see any thing Argentine including Argentineans, let that history leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
I noticed something else. How the venues were sanitised of Russians, except when they played. Before the start of the cup final, most of the talk in England had been of Russian fascist thugs, hooligans cracking the heads of non-Russians who dared to attend the matches. So much so that some black English football players asked their families not to attend for fear of being targeted for both physical and verbal abuse. Nothing of that sort happened or to my knowledge reported. It was as if all the Russian fascist thugs had been locked up, exiled or shipped to Jerusalem to support Beitar Jerusalem.
Back to the football.
I also caught snippets of Egypt’s matches. It was not going to go well especially with an unfit Mo Salah. Not even his BDE(Big Dick Energy) could save them. Well, he was less than half the man he had been before the end of the season. Having been crocked by Sergio Ramos in the European Cup Final to underline the saying that, ‘football is a game of gentlemen played by thugs’, he had, it seems, been there with the remotest possibility that he would be available to make an impact. Sadly, it did not happen.
The English came across the Columbians and won, that kept the dream alive as the statistics rang in their ears that in every country that Guardiola, the Manchester City manager, has won the league championship, that country has gone on to win the World Cup. Hmm, the idea of just turning up again.
Then came Croatia and at this point, your bladder was bursting that the unthinkable might happen. In the end, the Croatians put an end to the nonsense and your misery. Utter relief was yours as you emptied your bladder. Watching the English players on the pitch after the game, you were given the impression that they had fought a gallant fight and had been unlucky. The fact of the matter is they could not believe they had come this far and that frightened them. It would have been a travesty if they had gone past the Croatians. The English pundits had kept reminding us that you can only play or beat the opposition put up against you. That had not stopped them writing off the Croatians, as old and tired having played a few of their games into extra time. In the end the old leggy Croatians saw them off. I cannot imagine the amount of beer and whisky that went down Scottish throats at the final whistle with muttering ssassenachs! under their breaths.
Then the pundits turned it on its head and refused reality an entry. The English desperate search for footballing success is akin to wanting to, in a way, prove their manliness, for want of a better expression. To prove that they are with the big guys. Sadly, they are not. They said the English team was young and could only improve with many years ahead of them.
Then came the final and the French walked away with it in what turned out to be on reflection, a no match against Croatia. This time the English pundits were quiet because the French team that won the cup was about the same age as the English or younger. That excuse was blown out of the water. Here’s to another four years or in the case of the English, they should start trotting out their excuses, ready for what comes in two years, The European Cup. I am sure they will be ready, the excuses, that is.