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Despair in the Spiritual Home of Football

Watching the World Cup 2010 in London. Not the celebratory experience that many English fans were hoping for.

sunny 31 °C

Exactly when the game was invented, and by whom, and even where is now lost in the mists of time. Games involving kicking or balancing a ball with your feet date back millennia. What is clear is that the modern game played today is based largely on rules created in England in the mid-19th century, including the development in 1863 of the Football Association in 1863. When the international governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association was formed in Paris in 1904, it largely took the rules developed by the English Football Association as the set of rules governing the international game.

Because of this history, the English feel that they invented the game that we know today as football or soccer. In addition to that, while there could be debate about the best club team on the planet (my choice would be FC Barcelona), it is probably unarguable that the English Premier League is today the top-flight football club league in the world, with players from around the world coming to play for teams like Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspurs and Manchester United.

While many of those English Premier League teams have an international component, a good chunk of the top players are English. Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand are probably as well recognized and well regarded as the best from around the world and David Beckham is likely the best known footballer in the world. The English National team, made up of those players and more, was ranked 7th in the world back in December of 2009.

It was with much expectation that England looked forward to the World Cup this year. The World Cup is played every four years between the national football teams of countries from around the world. This year’s World Cup is being hosted by South Africa, the first time an African nation (a continent in ascendency when it comes to football) has hosted the World Cup.

When I knew I would be living in England during the World Cup, I had planned to write something about the experience. What is it like to live in a country that is vying – potentially with a decent chance – of hoisting the World Cup trophy? Folks were excited, and the St. George’s Cross – the flag of England – soon made appearances everywhere. Pubs everywhere decked themselves out in the flags of the participating countries and stocked up on extra kegs to serve those who were coming in to watch the matches.

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After the World Cup groups were drawn in December, I figured I would be writing up an entry in July. England drew an “easy” group, having to play Algeria, Slovenia and the United States. In fact, some clever clog noticed that the group itself spelt easy – England, Algeria, Slovenia and the Yanks. England was expected to easily win the group, and likely to make it to the quarter finals without much issue.

It hasn’t turned out that way.

England struggled in the group stages, drawing games against the USA and Algeria and only managing a win against Slovenia. They came second in the group behind the USA, and had to play Germany in the round of 16. Germany is a three time winner of the World Cup, but was fielding a young team thought to be short on experience.

Yesterday I settled in front of my new HD TV on the hottest day of the year with a refreshing cider to watch the England and Germany match.

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If you follow football, you know what happened next. England lost to Germany, who scored four goals to England’s one. England was robbed of a second goal, but even with that goal they still looked outplayed by the greener German side.

As an aside, the game was played on both BBC and BBC HD. I was watching on BBC HD, whose feed is a second delayed from the regular channel. Generally this delay isn’t much of an issue, but yesterday, with my windows wide open to let in the breeze and many other folks sitting in front of their TVs watching the same thing, I always had a second notification of what was going to happen. On the England goals, the cheer rose up from houses down the street and across my back garden. On the Germany goals and near English misses of the net, moans of despair.

Today, the press is grim. “Time to Go, Fabio,” the Sun tells the England coach. The Daily Mail reports on the “WAG’s Despair” at the loss, covering the wives and girlfriends reactions to the game. Even City AM, the financial newspaper known more for covering the banking crisis than the football has a front page story on the loss, claiming that a “Shamed England Hit Rock Bottom.”

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On my walk to work, I used to pass a number of houses and business places displaying the St. George’s Cross, and many cars with those little flags on stalks you put in your windows. Today, they are all gone. Interviews with English fans in the press, and they talk about giving up and never watching the national game again. There is a lot of chatter about how a bunch of high paid millionaires can get it so wrong.

So, my first experience watching a World Cup in the home of football hasn’t been one of happiness, but it probably has been typically English. Since their one and only World Cup trophy win in 1966, the English team has either underperformed or lost out on unlucky breaks. 2010’s version was much of the same. Most of English people I know take it with their usual self-depreciating manner, and with a good dose of humour.

And despite the howls of those who say they won’t watch the English national team ever again, I think they’ll be back. Brazil 2014 is only four years away.

Posted by GregW 02:35 Archived in England Tagged sports events

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Comments

If Rooney had scored instead of hitting the post VS Slovenia, then England would probably be getting ready to play Uruguay in the quarters. It should have been EASY. England's defense was terrible, but Rooney was THE MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT of this tournament (not just for England). The fat bastard ate all the pies and did not show up to any of our games. At least Gascoigne played well when he ate all the pies!

by Anand

Definitely a rough World Cup for England. USA was a fun team to watch this year, but that game against Ghana was a heartbreaker.

by Tanya

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