Football – and the winner is ……. money and the lust for fame.
Well, the England v Germany game was tragic of course. But it wasn’t because:
- the England team lost
- they played not only badly but moronically, with an idiotic rush upfield of the whole defence as if it were the last few minutes of the game, thus allowing the Germans to score more or less at will
- they repeated a few minutes later EXACTLY the same error as described above
- the Germans scored a goal straight from the kick-off, which BBC commentators said they had never before seen in an international match
- many of the players seemed “tired”, though this didn’t seem to trouble other players of the Premier League who were playing for other countries
- the English players mostly plodded about like sleepy elephants compared to the racing panthers of Germany (resisting the temptation to say ‘panzers’)
- the 5 million quid manager didn’t seem to have a clue; playing people out of position in a 4-4-2 formation that NOBODY else uses
- there were no specialist wingers; quite useful for getting behind the defence and lobbing in crosses, a strategy that seems as foreign to the manager as he is himself
- the same person was clearly unable to motivate and organise his players; as he speaks a different language this is not all that surprising – NO OTHER NATIONAL TEAM has a foreign manager, but we have to be different
- the manager – with three goals needed in 15 minutes brought on Emile Heskey as our ‘last hope’, no doubt a worthy person but with a very poor goal-scoring record
- the forward with the best goal-scoring record of all the English team (Crouch) hardly got a look-in
- the players were clearly disorganised and uninspired
- there seemed to be little real leadership on or off the field, with rumblings of discontent in the camp
- for all of the above the FA is paying this hopeless manager nearly £20,000 per working day of the year
No, all the above is or was silly – or perhaps a better word is “pathetic”. The real tragedy concerns the goal that wasn’t.
Of course, this was every bit as silly as the rest of it, FIFA looking completely ridiculous by its refusal to contemplate the use of technology to enhance “fairness” (a concept I am quite keen on but which seems a bit out of fashion generally). It seems that some of the vastly-paid and expensively-hotelled world-ranging FIFA executives think that technology would “reduce the drama”. I am seriously hoping that Argentina “do a Lampard” on Germany in the Friday game so that the idiocy of this policy will be rubbed in, especially to the (rather sadly) gloating Germans.
But we STILL haven’t got to the tragic bit, which is that the Germans missed a chance to be remembered for ever as the team that owned up to a goal. Neuer, the German goalkeeper, has said that when the ball rebounded from the bar and went in (as it clearly did) he at once reached behind, grabbed it and hoofed it upfield “so that the referee wouldn’t think it had gone in.” which of course (being blind) he didn’t.
In other words, Neuer KNEW it wasn’t a goal but didn’t say so. With this action he joined the serial cheats, divers, “get-an-opposing-player-sent-off” and Maradona “Hand-of-God” players who will do anything to win. These are people to whom the concept of sportsmanship, fairness, honesty and “doing the right stuff” are alien.
In the case of Maradona, the ability of humans to reach the peaks of irony was once again illustrated when before the World Cup started he made a plea for “fair play”. I am unaware that he has ever apologised for his own cheating, but of course it is much easier to urge other people to behave in a certain way than to do it yourself.
Anyway, I do not claim the English would have done any different; we’ll never know. Just as we’ll never know what the score of this match WOULD have been HAD the goal been given. What we DO know is that we’ll be thinking for the next forty years about how silly and unjust this was just as the Germans have been whinging on for the same length of time about 1966. It could and should have been so different. HAD the Germans gone at once to the ref and said: “It was a goal”, they would have been moral heroes for the rest of footballing history rather than remembered (by me at least) as just another bunch of cheats.
The tragedy of course is that a TREMENDOUS OPPORTUNITY was lost to make a pitch for honesty, fairness, sportsmanship and decency. What an example that would have been to everyone, especially our kids! And WHAT A CHANCE to dump for ever and ever the image of football as a cheats’ activity dominated by the false Gods of money and fame as well as the stereo-typed image that some idiotic Brits have of Germans as unfeeling Nazis.
No, their instinct was NOT to admit the goal and to benefit from an unfair error. Sad … for the next 40 years we’ll be talking about the unfairness rather than what a wonderful gesture they made.
Oh, and as for 1966, let’s lay this ghost to rest. There was NEVER ANY QUESTION that it wasn’t a goal. The referee and linesman on that day BOTH said it was a goal and it is obvious from the reaction of the players that it was a goal, even if in those times the cameras were not as sophisticated as today’s and cannot definitively PROVE it was a goal. I am afraid this 1966: “It wasn’t a goal – we wuz robbed.” stuff is a bit like the urban myth: “The German army was stabbed in the back by politicians.” that Hitler exploited after WWI.
Well, for me the World Cup has lost some sheen; it is all so silly, nationalistic and rife with unsportsmanship. All that one lives with (one is used it these days), but the missed opportunity to make a moral stand is one I deeply regret.
I hope it is clear that this has NOTHING TO DO with my being English. Had our boys done the same I would have been just as sad, even more so, as – perhaps stupidly – I would like to think we are made of better stuff. However, football is not cricket and even cricket is often not cricket today either.
By Chris Snuggs