Most men wouldn’t show such loyalty to their wives. In return, they want to see you playing some football…
When it comes to watching football, I would rather spend 90 minutes having every hair on my body removed by tweezers than sit and endure what often turns out to be a pantomime of primary school proportions.
If it wasn’t for the fact that I own a pub, and therefore spend most of my time surrounded by ball-kicking testosterone types who like to pick apart every intricate detail of the previous night’s game, I wouldn’t have a clue what was supposed to happen in a game of football. Paying Sky their gargantuan fee for the privilege of showing a match to the public makes me cringe but, at least, it does help me sort of understand what makes a game of football. And what doesn’t. (Friday night’s England v Algeria match would be a case in point here.)
I’ve always thought that the biggest problem with football in this country is the level of importance we put upon the game, and those who make a vast amount of money playing it.
Footballers earn fortunes, drive garish Bentleys and Porsche Cayennes, and sleep with incredibly attractive women. They are paid well by their teams and their countries and supported by their fans with such levels of devotion that the Vatican can only dream about.
And yet, especially at international level, they seem totally unable to repay such loyalty.
Amazingly, at the end of Friday night’s game, Wayne Rooney struggled to control his temper when fans jeered at the team as they exited the stadium. “Nice to see your own fans booing you, that’s what loyal support is,” he moaned.
While I appreciate that Wayne has subsequently apologised for his outburst, I can’t help but think it was probably written by somebody else. Wayne, unfortunately, probably doesn’t really appreciate that these people have shown him devotion and loyalty. They have used their hard earned money to get out to South Africa in order to watch England play in the World Cup. They have worshipped the ground the team walk on and purchased the branded goods and paid the exorbitant ticket fees that keep footballers in a life of luxury that their loyal supporters simply dream about.
Most men wouldn’t show such loyalty to their wives.
In return, they want to see Wayne, and his mates, play football.
Had, on Friday night, England played a great game of football and simply been bested by their competition the team’s fans would have been disappointed but most would have accepted their fate with grace. The poor show of form from England, however, prompted Fabio Capello to muse that this was not the team he recognised from training or qualifying, a damning statement if ever there was one, and one that left England’s fans despondent.
Those that travelled to South Africa have likely bought tickets to see their team through to, at least, the next round while those at home no longer believe there is any hope left for us in this tournament. Pubs and bars whose businesses were relying on a strong performance from the squad this year now face misery and, on Wednesday afternoon, many may choose to stay at work rather than meet up with their mates to watch England go through to the next round.
That is why you got booed at, Wayne. The loyalty the fans have shown has simply not been returned and this is where I believe our footballers are going wrong: they have come to expect their fans will lay down their lives for them and that they deserve to win the cup simply because they play for England. With their nice homes, flash cars and gorgeous girlfriends, they have little to incentivise them to win.
So perhaps, in time for the next Euro or World tournament, we should come up with a reward system for the players. I suggest the following:
At the start of the tournament, the England squad will be camping out in tents, eating from the land and facing the elements each night before bed. (At least that way, Rooney would have an excuse for not shaving.) Their wives and girlfriends will be kept far out of reach. Should they get through to the next stage they will be promoted from tents to a nearby Bed & Breakfast where they will be able to sleep in warmth and on a mattress. (And have a bathroom in which to shave.) With the next stage they’ll be promoted to a nice hotel, and so on…
As they approach the final each player will be filled with such concupiscence that they will need to be allowed to spend a night with their respective others (not the wife of the chap in the room next door, John Terry…) a few days before the final game.
By the time they reach the final the love and devotion from their supporters would be enough to quell any worries Rooney might have about supporter loyalty and should spur them on to a stunning victory.
And if they lost they would face a firing squad. Metaphorically speaking, of course, because even if they played well but lost the final game each player would be torn limb-from-limb by the baying media, who seem to exist only to build our sports stars in to deities and then destroy them when they don’t rise to the occasion.
We should, as a nation, get behind our team and cheer them on. We should have the hope and the belief that they can make it through this tournament. Their own manager should not publicly berate them but instead show support and motivation.
In return, we have the right to expect them to play some bloody good football.
Personally, I would like to see an outsider make it through to the final. England would be good…