Posts Tagged ‘Racism’

A different kind of England, same old administrators

June 21st, 2012 No comments

England have reached the quarter finals of the 2012 European Championship.  Surprisingly, it was achieved by winning the group. Seven points from nine is a very healthy return.

The prospect of Wayne Rooney’s return from suspension dominated the build up to the Ukraine game. Before the match Roy Hodgson had to consider all options.  Would it be wise to break up the forward line that beat Sweden?  In his autobiography Gary Neville states clearly that insisting on accommodating big names has been a fault of England managers.  Aragones’ omission of Raul was the pivotal point which  led to Spain’s recent trophy haul.  And, of course, in 1966, Alf Ramsey chose to continue with Geoff Hurst leaving a fully fit Jimmy Greaves on the sidelines.  Few would suggest Hurst was actually a better player than Greaves, but for the good of the team, the manager made a bold decision… which proved priceless.  In picking Rooney to start Hodgson must have been aware of these factors.  When it was Rooney who missed the best chance of a tight edgy first half Roy could have been forgiven for feeling let down by his big name striker.  Quite simply, he should have scored.  Thankfully he redeemed himself by being on hand to score the winner shortly after half time. Although, it’s fair to say he couldn’t miss from there!  Not a memorable goal but the fact is that when England clinched top spot in the group we beat Ukraine 1-0 and Wayne Rooney scored the winner.  And Roy’s decision was justified.

England play Italy next.   If we were to progress to the semi final it would be regarded as something of a suprise by planet football.  The point has to be made however that we have already achieved more than many expected in this tournament.

Our progress has underpinned by preparation and application. Unlike in other tournaments this England squad seems to be focused on the job in hand.  It’s pleasing that Hodgson’s experience and wisdom has removed the circus that surrounds the England set up.  Another aspect is that the build up to the tournament was low key.  No overblown statements or bombastic posturing…  from fans press or players.  This time we are aware of our failings and have finally scaled down expectations accordingly.

Why are England traditionally dogged with such ridiculous levels of expectation?  There is absolutely nothing to justify the notion that England are a superpower.   Our record since 1966 isn’t great. In the last 46 years we have reached a World Cup semi a Euro semi and several World Cup quarter finals. In the same period Holland have reached three World Cup Finals   semi and won the European Championship. Bulgaria got to a WC semi. Sweden have got to a WC semi and a Euro semi. Poland reached a WC semi and finished 3rd in 1974. Belgium have reached a Euro final and a WC semi. Turkey have reached a WC semi and a Euro semi and, of course, Greece were European champions.  That’s only the middle ranking European sides.

Since 1966* our record, when compared to other European football nations, gives new meaning to the word average. Yet English people get annoyed because, for example, ‘We’ll never ‘win anything with Capello.’ Or, ‘We’ll never win anything with Sven’.  Its unlikely we’ll win a competition whoever the manager is. We’d all love to but to actually expect England to win a tournament is based on wishful thinking. There is  no great tradition to justify a demand like that.  We should keep our hopes in perspective.   When we are knocked out of this tournament will we see the same filth and fury that often accompanies an England exit?   I’m certainly not saying we shouldn’t try to win tournaments.  But I am saying we should keep our hopes in perspective.   Personally, I always look at getting through the group then take it from there. Usually as soon as we face a side with genuine aspirations to win the tournament we get knocked out.  1990  was great fun but, with all respect, Belgium and Cameroon weren’t contenders to lift the trophy.   *Our record before 66 wasn’t great either…Bela Horizonte anyone?

On the subject of  genuine football superpowers I  believe Germany will lift the trophy.  To now they been the best team in the competition.  While every team in a tournament like this will cause problems they will know it could have been a harder quarter final than Greece.   Sixteen years without a trophy will be hurting.  For a nation of their football stature it’s too long.   It’s worth pointing out that in these sixteen years they have reached a World cup final and a European Championship final.

Nicklas Bendtner has been banned for one match and fined 100,000 Euros for showing the sponsored waistband of his underpants. Bendtner did indeed break rules but the real story is that UEFA have made it abundantly clear by this that they regard upsetting sponsors as a bigger evil than the racism which is endemic in some nations.  The Croatian FA has been fined a lesser amount for their fans racist chanting at a Euro 2012 match.   UEFA and FIFA have both been in a strong position to take decisive action on racism for years yet they continue to shy away.   Hopefully the ruling bodies  will be spare us  any glib fatuous statements about global harmony.


EURO 2012 32 hours and 10 minutes to go – Expectation, Selection and Racism

June 7th, 2012 No comments

Have England ever entered a tournament with expectations so low?  It’s hard to find anyone prepared to confidently predict progress to the quarter final.  With England fans now having such a cautious view we can hope it alleviates some of the overwhelming pressure that stifles the England team.

In the midst of the Rio Ferdinand & John Terry controversy, the issue of how to cope without Wayne Rooney for two games has been all but forgotten.  Hodgson could have created more options for himself by copying Marcello Lippi.  The notion of Italy’s habitual caution is genuine and legendary.  It’s proved fatal on several occasions. But Lippi, wily old warhorse that he is, contradicted this regular policy of football suicide by taking six forwards to Germany in 2006. SIX. and more to the point, in the semi against Germany used five of them. That Italy side was there to attack. And it proved fruitful. Like Enzo Bearzot 24 years before, breaking the fear led them to victory. There was a lesson for Roy to take on board in all that. Instead of filling the squad out with holding midfielders take an extra attacker. Take 5 forwards. You can’t have too many attacking options.  It would have addressed the issue of Rooney’s absence with positive sympathy.

While lacking the diversity of a World Cup, one great thing about the European Championship is the sheer quality on offer.  There are few dud teams in the Euros and many have genuine aspirations to win the trophy.  Enjoy this tournament because in 2016 that will change.  The decision to expand the finals competition to 24 teams will dilute the quality.   Did they do it because the cash cow that is England didn’t reach the 2008 finals?  I’m guessing it’d be a significant factor. There doesn’t seem to be any other reason.  UEFA forget that England didn’t qualify because we simply weren’t good enough. Europe has 52 nations and almost half of them will be in the tournament.  Financial gain may be assured but stripping the prestige away could prove to be self defeating.  There are already problems finding bidders to host for the 2020 competition.  UEFA’s number crunchers are clearly oblivious to the current precarious state of the global economy.

The issue of racism has dominated the build up. Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s families have decided  not to travel  over fears for their safety.  Mario Balotelli has stated that if he is the subject of racial abuse he’ll walk off the pitch.  Michel Platini has stated that any player walking off the pitch will receive a yellow card, adding that only referees have the authority to halt a match.  He did emphasise that if  referees choose to delay a match for this reason, UEFA would support them.  How can the black players trust the relevant bodies to protect them when for so long they proved themselves to be inept?  Both UEFA and FIFA have paid vacuous lip service to the subject for years.  During the bidding process for the 2018 World Cup, delegates were even instructed not to take racism into account when voting.  The result being that Russia will host.  Russia where racism in football crowds is sickeningly prominent.  If a player does have the courage to walk off the pitch the ruling bodies will have to face up their own responsibility in failing to adequately address the issue for so many years.

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