Saturday, 10 July 2010

World Cup - Festival of football or fiasco?

I’m glad that England have not won the World Cup. Does that make me a bad person? Or unpatriotic? I hope not.

I was born the year after we won the World Cup, and as a teenager i dreamt of the time that we would win it again - would it ever happen in my lifetime?

After the poor first two games in Mexico in 1986, in a must win situation, things came good. Lineker got a hatrick against Poland, and in the end we were only beaten by the cheating and genius of Maradona at his peak.

Italia ‘90 saw the best England team that i could remember come tantalisingly close, only to be beaten by those pesky Germans in a penalty shootout. Like Gazza, i too cried that day, and even now, twenty years later, my eyes get moist when i hear Nessun Dorma because of the memories it brings back of how close we got.

Since then, things have not been good. The Premier League, Sky TV and money have come together to, in my eyes, totally ruin English football. Sure we have some of the best players in the world playing over here now - snag is, they are not eligible to play for England in internationals. Most of them come here for the money, and, realistically, who can blame them? £100,000+ a week would get most peoples attention!

The downside to this is that the sport has been priced out of the reach of a lot of fans, and the clubs are less inclined to look to the future of local talent when they can buy a quick fix from abroad for “instant success”. This has damaged the national team. For instance, there was a time that England had the best goalkeepers in the world:- Banks, Shilton, Clemence, heck even Seaman. How many Premier sides now have English goalkeepers as their number one choice? How many of those few that do are successful?

When you see teams like Chelsea and Arsenal regularly field teams with no English players, or maybe the token one if you are lucky, you have to see that the game here is seriously flawed if we hope for international success.

One of the other problems is that a lot of these young men simply cannot cope with their fame and fortunes. Fast cars, fast women, all night clubbing sessions, drinking, fighting, sleeping with as many of their team-mates wives and girlfriends as they we really want to see these players as highly lauded as the team of ‘66? I’m sure that Bobby Moore would turn in his grave if he saw what was going on now with some of these players. Sir Wayne Rooney? Lord Ashley of Cole? John Terry MBE (Massive Big Ego)? Oh, please no!!

Of course, the press don’t help matters. Did they REALLY have to bring out all that John Terry sleeping around stuff a couple of months before the World Cup? I’m sure it sold a heck of a lot of papers, but it also helped to screw up things in the England camp big time, and if anyone is to blame for the utter turmoil that was happening in the squad during the cup, then the tabloids have to have a very large finger pointed at them. Why couldn’t they have waited?

Yes, the players brought the bad press on themselves by being stupid, careless, childish and attention seeking. Most of them don’t know any better, which says a lot about the state of the country at the moment. They need protecting from themselves as much as anything. Maybe they could be locked away in a dormitory when they are not playing?

Or maybe it is time to take a long hard look at the game. There are so many flaws within it at the moment, there is danger of it becoming a joke. Transfer caps? Yes please! How any player can be judged to be worth so many tens of millions of pounds is totally beyond me. The money side of the game has got out of hand. Bring in a transfer cap, and you level the playing field for all the teams - maybe we won’t have a two horse race each season then?

Wage caps? Yes please! How any player can justify the tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds they earn every week is also totally beyond me. How can they expect to get the respect of the fans they play for when they earn a week what most people work many years to get? How many big houses and fast cars do they need? Perhaps a basic salary with a performance bonus on top would  make a few of these spoilt and pampered fools get their acts together and actually play well.

Here’s another thought - technology - shock horror! Yes, the technology does exist to tell instantly whether the ball crossed the line, whether he was offside, was he fouled or did he dive. It’s there already - it won’t cost the ridiculous sums that FIFA claim. It’s there, and it’s basically FREE!!!!!!

Oh yes, but it would "ruin the free flowing aspect of the sport"..... Er, what free flowing aspect would that be then? So much time is spent with players rolling around like they have been shot, arguing with the referee about a decision, or just simply time wasting that there is no free flowing aspect to the game anymore.

The clock stops while the ball is not in play. Simple. Job done. No more arguments about injury time, time wasting etc. If the ball is in play the clock runs, if it’s not, the clock stops. You want to argue with the ref over a throw-in, fine, go for it, the clock has stopped, so you’re no longer wasting time, and there’s a good chance he will book you for your attitude. (Oooo, 10 minute personal misconduct there’s a thought!).

Have a 5th official with all the TV screens and technology in radio communication with the referee, and you can have instant reliable and accurate decisions. If a player dives or play-acts he gets booked. Every time. That would rip that problem out of the game. Did the ball cross the line from Lampard’s shot - the 5th official would know in a second and could radio the ref. Goal given. Was Tevez offside? Yes, goal ruled out. I like it already!!

Of course, if there was any integrity in the game anymore, the German goalkeeper would have told the ref that it had crossed the line, or at half time their manager would have told them to let England score a goal to sort out the injustice of the decision. However, there simply is not that sort of gentlemanly conduct in the game anymore. It is a shame that the final result has become more important than how it is achieved.

A bit like many aspects of life in fact. “I don’t care how many people’s lives i have to ruin, i just want to be successful” must be the mantra of many business men these days too. It doesn’t matter how many people you have to trample on or stab in the back as long as you get what you want. Fair play and honour? “I spit on them - i want another Mercedes/Bentley/Ferarri”.

They say that you know you are getting old when you start to reminisce. This must mean that i am getting old, as i hanker for the old days, you know, when there were only 3 channels on tv and they weren’t on all day. Life was simpler. If you couldn’t afford it, or didn’t need it, you didn’t have it. Them were the days.......i could go on for hours on that particular subject!

Rant over. Just one more thing - when it comes to football, i don’t care what the pundits and experts say, never write off the Germans! (unless they are playing against Spain of course!)

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