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Reclaiming the Spirit of 66


What England accomplished in 1966 so few nations on the globe can claim to equal in a major international team sporting competition. Ridiculed at home by an over zealous press and negative fans, the Three Lions entered the annals of history with their unbelievable World Cup winning run. As we enter a new Premier League season, the Spirit of 1966 appears to be dying among today’s footballers. This spirit is dying because of over commercialization and the unwillingness of club teams to focus on developing local talent.

I live in a nation, the United States who has never accomplished in any internationally competitive team sport what England did that wonderful summer forty two years ago. Americans prefer team sports they can dominate or manipulate the rules to their advantage. Moreover in the rugged individualistic culture that is Americana, Tiger Woods is hailed as a national hero while our footballers are anonymous to most. Even this past week with far superior talent to the opposition in Group B, the USA bowed out of the Olympic Football competition because of a lack of team discipline, not a lack or talent. The United States of course is a bad example: our domestic first division football league, Major League Soccer actually has a marketing agreement with our biggest national rivals, the Federation of Mexican Football! For all the complaints about the Premier League not helping the England National side, can you imagine the Premier League actively promoting the French Football Federation on English soil?

So the Premier League isn’t as bad as what we have in the United States but it’s not helping recapture the Spirit of 66 either. Last week, Rio Ferdinand one of the few current English players who does exemplify what 1966 is all about made a bold statement: he does not believe the players developed with him at West Ham United in the late 1990s including Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Jermain DeFoe would be afforded the same opportunity today. While international football has existed for many years, much of that clubs and domestic leagues kept their indigenous nature. British football represented the purest most honest form of the game on the planet. Uncorrupted by those who flaunted the rules to gain their own advantage and by those foreigners who used big money to fundamentally change the style and spirit of the game. Club academies which were for years the key to developing localized talent are now specializing in developing foreign talent or sadly no talent at all. England despite having the best league in the world has quite possibly the worst development system of any traditional footballing nation.

Much like the setup we have here in the United States, England needs a national football academy. Sadly when we develop players in our national academy often times they are then ruined by clubs and coaches in our domestic league. (As this Olympics demonstrated, our national academy has produced amazingly technical players who can compete with anyone, but our domestic league has neutered them so greatly that our players make fundamental mistakes at the end of matches when trying to close them out.) But currently, the top club academies in England aren’t even producing good players let alone good English ones. In addition today’s footballer is mentally weaker than those of the 1966 England Team and rather than brushing off the criticism from a Football media whose understanding of the international game is minimal at best they allow these pundits to manipulate and destroy the England team. This same media has hounded Sepp Blatter’s reasonable proposals to reign in the foreign player addiction that ails the English domestic game: while FIFA is typically shortsighted about such matters with the resources and interest in the game that England has, another World Cup triumph is within grasp if the Premier League changes its ways or FIFA forces the issue.

Perhaps today’s footballers want it this way. Maybe they are less interested in country and national pride than club and money. But that is not what Football is about. League like the Premier League maybe global brands but they have an obligation to their local communities to hone and develop footballing talent. Rio Ferdinand knows differently and for that he demonstrates that the Spirit of 1966 is not dead just yet.


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  1. Adam

    August 17, 2008 at 12:43 am

    #27: Good advise. I plan on skipping other articles by this author. If sentiments like those expressed here appear elsewhere on the site, I’ll skip the whole site. That’s feedback I’d expect the people involved with this site to want to hear. Whether you decide it matters or not is up to you. Your product is your product.

    …but they do not take to the streets or start fights about it.

    This is the/a standard for what is and isn’t a major sport?

    I guess I just feel you need to think about some of the things you’re writing.

  2. eplnfl

    August 17, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Gaffer & Kartik:

    I would have to disagree on basketball not being a major international sport. After football/soccer basketball is the second most popular spot in the world. The number of international players in the NBA keeps growing. You did not say it but who says basketball is not popular in South America, well who won the gold medal in Athens in 2004. A team from South America. Spain a world champion. China loves the game.

    I love soccer and the NBA has it’s issues, but do not discount b-ball.

  3. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    August 16, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    I seriously doubt people in Greece cheered the FIBA World Championship in 2006 the way they did Euro 2004. The same for Spain in comparing Olympic Basketball in 2004 to Euro 2008.

    I’m sorry I’ve struck the wrong chord with you. Americans I am sure we can all agree are peculiar in their sporting tastes. Australians the same way, with the isolation from inflicted by the sea being a main factor.

    I do find it very revealing though when nations are passionate about sports Americans do poorly. I maintain what I said about Basketball. People in Europe and Latin America do not really care. So they produce some good players and watch the NBA occasionally, but they do not take to the streets or start fights about it.

    Back to the original point of the article. Do people think the PL is helping or hurting England’s chances of winning a World Cup?

  4. Michael

    August 16, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Gaffer and Kartik, you two are missing the boat here as far as the popularity of basketball. It is extremely prevalent in Spain, Germany, France, Greece, Lithuania, and Russia, as well as Italy. Look at the mass influx of foreign players to the NBA, and that tells you a lot about basketball and its growth overseas. Check jersey sales in those countries, and along with the soccer players and their own local basketball heroes, you’re going to find Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, both certifiable global superstars.

    No, basketball is not as popular in those countries as soccer, but to say it isn’t a major international sport is inaccurate.

  5. The Gaffer

    August 16, 2008 at 4:19 pm


    Kartik is entitled to his opinion, as we all are (including the readers). If you don’t like his opinions, don’t read his articles.

    For what it’s worth, basketball is not a major international sport. Outside of the US and Asia, very few countries care much about or watch it.

    The Gaffer

  6. Adam

    August 16, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    I agree with Brian re: Kartik’s mindset and reasoning. Unfortunately for EPL Talk, it is having a major effect on how I view and enjoy this site.

  7. Brian

    August 16, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I think I understand.

    Why does MLS share revenue with the Mexicans? Individualism! Why did the U.S. lose to Netherlands? Individualism? Why did we invade Iraq? Rampant individualism! Why not invade Iran? Same again! It’s so simple!

    Conversely, why did the Brits win in ’66, until recently abstain from diving in soccer, and do it was with such a pure form of soccer? The Blitz! Or something! (At least they aren’t so bloody individualistic!)

  8. Brian

    August 16, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Ah, JM – you’re wasting your time with all this rational thought. Kartik’s mindset is straight out of the golden age of nationalism and empire, and I half expect him to extol the virtues of a stiff upper lip and the civilizing mission in his next post. What a load of shit.

  9. jm

    August 16, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    What is your definition of “the masses”? That still seems to be the key issue, that both I and Adam have pointed out. Basketball is probably the fourth most popular sport in the States (NFL, NASCAR, MLB). If you combine college B-Ball and the NBA, it might be more popular than baseball. I’m not sure, I have no information. Yet, millions watch it. College basketball is very popular, March Madness is one of the highest rated sustained sporting events in the country.

    But either way, I don’t see the relevance. We were discussing the status of American sports in the International scene (which was irrelevant to begin with), and not the popularity of these sports at home. I’m really pressed to follow the logical connections between these topics.

  10. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    August 16, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Even in the US, in major urban areas which have MLB, NFL and NBA teams, the preference among most sports fans would be to win a Super Bowl or World Series over the NBA.

    Basketball is a niche sport even in its home country. College Basketball is actually may favorite American sport. Sure it’s not Football but conference season with its rivalries (particularly the ACC) is the closest thing this nation has to European or Latin Football derbys. But I’m not foolish enough to think the masses care.

  11. Adam

    August 16, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Basketball does not matter to hardly anyone outside the US.

    Are you trying to destroy your credibility more than you already have? Your logic seems to hold that if a sport isn’t as popular as football it does not matter. Well congratulations! You have an infallible, if utterly false and uninteresting, argument.

    You probably should not be writing for this website.

  12. jm

    August 16, 2008 at 11:50 am

    The NBA is phenomenally popular in China, and the success of NBA Europe has actually led to an American player leaving the NBA for Greece (Josh Childress).

    Obviously it doesn’t have the same popularity as football. The only sport in the world that can compete is cricket. Though, and this is among the most pedantic distinctions one could possibly draw, there is a difference between being popular and being ‘most popular.’ Not sure why you think not being the most popular means “NO ONE CARES” (especially with the shouting! that doesn’t replace critical reasoning).

  13. Kartik

    August 16, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Basketball does not matter to hardly anyone outside the US. Other nations play the sport but hardly anyone is passionate about it. Were the Spanish on the edge of their seats in 2004 when they won the Gold Medal or were they lamenting a defeat in the Euro Football tournament? How about Argentinian people? Do they take to the streets after winning a Basketball game? It makes us feel good to claim after we’ve beaten someone that it is such a big deal but the truth must be told as someone who has actually traveled to Europe immediately before an Olympic Basketball tournament: NO ONE CARES. The only people in Germany who care are the American soldiers there.

  14. jm

    August 15, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    Incidentally, one of the reasons that I am so stridently pushing the standards of valid reasoning, is that as a fan of several American sports, I share the same frustration with your post as you do with those Americans who disparage football.

  15. jm

    August 15, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    I appreciate taking the time to answer my questions. Your answers are subject to the exact same criticisms I made in response to your previous post, so I will just sum up very briefly.

    1) This paragraph was irrelevant to your initial point, but you come back to the matter later, so I’ll deal with it then. The intent of the original post was not to defend football from Americans who disparage it. As you stated, the point was English football, and the attitude they had towards the game in ’66.

    And for all the disparagement that Americans give to football (I too am annoyed by it), why turn around and disparage sports other people enjoy? I couldn’t care less if other Americans don’t like football, but I do care that people go out of their way to insult it. You are merely going out of your way to insult other sports. Why shouldn’t their fans also be just as upset?

    2) I’m not sure this is true, but it is at least an empirical claim, so I have no follow ups.

    3) Again, I see broad, nationalistic, categorizations of whole groups of people. There is no reason whatsoever to take this seriously. They are empirical claims, based on bad stereotypes, that need factual evidence to back them up. Without it, the crucial premise, on which both of your last two articles rest, is unjustified.

    This is partly based on my disdain for nationalism (and thus beyond the scope of this matter), but also on the grounds that cultures are too complicated to ever use a simple “Cultural Group X has trait F” sentence. Individualism is part of American culture, but that does not imply that the claim “Americans are individualistic” is true.


    Anyway, I think your last paragraph is the illuminating one, psychologically speaking at least. You seem to be running together a distaste for the sport of football with other critiques of American culture. It is fair to critique American culture, but it requires a lot more subtlety than “Americans are individualists.” Either way, it is fair for Americans not to like a sport, just as it is fair for you not to like American Football.

    Sports are not inherently good or bad. There is no normative force to saying that people “should be fans of sport x.” What is unfortunate is that people disparage the sport just for the sake of disparaging it and bringing it down in the eyes of others. I see absolutely no difference between this behavior and your last two posts.

    Finally, this paragraph is rather confusing. The connection you draw, to establish relevance, is merely that you are disgusted by some behavior. Yet, there is no logical connection there. A conclusion about one has nothing to do with the other. The only connection seems to be that you have a bone to pick (and I’m trying to just be straightforward with that last sentence). It does not bear on the thesis of the post.

  16. Adam

    August 15, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    No American sport has widespread acceptance in non-American influenced countries on the globe.

    There is that whole basketball thing.

  17. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    August 15, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I should also point out I believe American College Sports are much more honest than professional sports. If NCAA Basketball were more prominent than the NBA or NCAA Football more prominent than the NFL, American sporting culture would be more understandable and passionate/team oriented like the rest of the world. Instead its all about individuals and money.

  18. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    August 15, 2008 at 4:55 pm


    Thanks for your request. Here are my thoughts.

    1) American sports must be discussed because they explain a sporting culture in the USA which is not conducive in the world at large. No American sport has widespread acceptance in non-American influenced countries on the globe. People may play Basketball in far flung places but they are not passionate as they are about football. Every single nation that plays Baseball has been influenced in some way by the USA, much like every nation that plays Cricket has been an imperial domain of the UK. Football and Rugby on the other hand have won widespread acceptance in the non English dominated world. It is relevent because American disparage football and claim they have won multiple titles in other sports when nobody outside the USA and maybe within the old Politburo in Moscow cared about the US’ triumphs in these events.

    2- England is where Football originated and where football is played and taught honestly. Not as a game of diving or putting one over on an opponent. It was until recently superbly honest and England has deserved more than they’ve gotten from recent tournaments.

    3- Americans are individualistic. That’s why even in team sports Americans obssess on largely meaningless statistics. Americans evaluate their own sports on these idiotic figures. Example. Running Back A averages 4.5 yards a carry and RB M averages 3.9 YPC. But what if RB M is carrying the ball in goal line situations and on 3rd and 1 a whole lot while RB A is being given the ball on draw and counter plays on 3rd and 18? Yet most American Football fans automatically say RB A is much better.

    Individualism over sacrifice for the greater good is precisely why during a war that we currently fight 3/4 of the population is disengaged worried about Britany Spears and Paris Hilton. The fact that over 4,000 Americans have come back in body bags in war that had no justification in real poltic while we’ve allowed the real enemies of our country like Iran to grow stronger because of our adventure in Iraq has no bearing on these mindless self absorbed people.

    On the hand the British people understand sacrifice. They understand national service and they understand rallying around the flag is more than a political statement designed by certain people at Election time.

    Had this been any other nation people would have been heartbroken like I was Wednesday morning when the best team we’ve ever taken into a major international competition was eliminated largely due to bad luck. But it did not even make the evening newscasts. JM, if you wonder why any discussion of the sports ethos in England involves discussion of the difference with the United States, it’s because I disdain the behavior of so many around me towards what really matters.

  19. jm

    August 15, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    I went after the specious reasoning of the last post by Mr. Krishnaiyer, detailing that many of his claims were based on blatantly fallacious reasoning, or stunning disregard for factual evidence. Hank has already taken up part of that task in regard to this post. Since Mr. Krishnaiyer repeated many of the same assertions here that he made in the other piece, I am going to confine myself to just a couple of questions…

    1) Why do you feel the need to slam American sports when they are not germane or relevant to the topic at hand (other than, obviously, football in America)?

    2) On what grounds do you substantiate this assertion that English players play the purest form of the game?

    3) What licenses your gross oversimplifications of national mentalities of Americans and Englishmen?

    One final point, you noted that you wanted this piece to be about English football, which is fine. Yet, the obvious reason the comments have tended to discuss American sports is precisely because you use this piece (like others you have written) to blast both American sports and Americans. (or, the image of Americans that you work with), even when they are not relevant to the topic you wish to discuss.

  20. Brian

    August 15, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Man, I sure pity the poor professor who has to read the ejaculatory exuberence of Kartik’s master’s thesis on British history. I wonder what the personal story is there.

  21. Adam

    August 15, 2008 at 11:09 am

    #10: Pretty ridiculous. Brazil won in ’58,
    ’62, and ’70, but somehow, over that 16 year span, they weren’t good enough in ’66? Possible. It’s also possible that, as is widely documented, the referees let the the English and Germans bulldoze most of the field.

    This at least needs to be mentioned whenever ’66 is brought up, whether you buy into it or not.

  22. Paul Bestall

    August 15, 2008 at 3:08 am

    Brazil didn’t qualify for the knock out stages in 66 because they weren’t good enough, Sure they had some rough treatment but so did Portugal, England and the Germans. Brazil didn’t win it in 1974,78,82,86,90,98 and 06 because they weren’t good enough and the same applies in 1966.

  23. Reo

    August 14, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Portugal was robbed to the hands of England as well.

  24. Adam

    August 14, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    A 1966 reference with no asterisks? This World Cup win was from a dark, dark time in the sport and really should not be used as a reference point for today’s game. The referees predetermined that Brazil, the best team at the time, would not make it out of their Group. Other South American teams were similarly discriminated against. Referencing that competition as a high-mark in England football history is at best problematic.

  25. Hank

    August 14, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    I always enjoy Kartik’s articles. They’re like listing to the drunk guy next to you at a bar while you watch a game. 90% nonsense, but if you focus, you can normally figure out what he’s getting at. 🙂

    I think the central points being made are 1) English players aren’t getting enough playing time in the Premier League to develop and 2) that England needs to invest in a national training academy. I think they are both good points.

    The rest of the article is a mix of nonsense and unsubstantiated assertions. Some personal highlights:
    + “Americans prefer team sports they can dominate or manipulate the rules to their advantage.”
    (…or, because of its historic geographic isolation, America developed its own unique set of team sports, that remain its most popular)

    + “Moreover in the rugged individualistic culture that is Americana, Tiger Woods is hailed as a national hero while our footballers are anonymous to most.”
    (…or, Tiger Woods is hailed as a hero because he is, possibly, the best player of all time in a popular sport, compared to American footballers who are above-average in a locally-not-very-popular sport. See Michael Jordan for a counter example)

    +”United States who has never accomplished in any internationally competitive team sport what England did”.
    (…if you selectively choose only internally competitive team sports we haven’t accomplished anything in – i.e. soccer, cricket, rugby. I think the point is really that we haven’t won the World Cup – and that’s the only internationally competitive team sports competition that most people care about)

    + “In addition today’s footballer is mentally weaker than those of the 1966 England team”
    (…if you generalize the thousands of footballers, none of whom you’ve met, into a single caricature)

    And my personal favorite, from the subsequent comments:
    “They produce real sportsman who understand self sacrifice. Going through what England went through in World War II gives the Anglos a perspective we Americans will never have.”
    (…eat that France!)

  26. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    August 14, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Let me also mention Michael winning the U-21 in Europe means nothing in the Olympics. The last European team to win the competition was in 1992 and they were playing at home, Spain.

    The US has made a habit of beating European countries other than Italy at the U-17 or U-20 level in world cup’s. Holland, England, Spain, France, Germany are all inferior in their youth setups to us. That’s an opinion but can be backed up with actual evidence.

    Where we lose it is after our pool players turn 20 and our domestic league is terrible or our kids don’t have the mental makeup to compete at top clubs in Europe or Mexico.

  27. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    August 14, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Michael if you actually followed this US team you’d know they were MUCH better than both their opponents. Holland was basically outplayed in all 3 group games and had players whose fitness level was so poor they all looked like they were going to pass out 65 minutes into the match.

    On the other hand thanks to our national academy we’ve produced our most technical players ever and if you rewatch that Holland match you cannot tell me we do not have twice the talent they do. We outplayed them more than we did any CONCACAF opponent during qualifying. I challenge you to watch that entire match and assess it objectively instead of telling me we would have lost had the match been “on a proper pitch” as you did the day of the match which you obviously had not watched closely.

    Nigeria I grant you has a reputation at the youth level and much better players than Holland. Still we had a better side than them, but when you are down a man for 87 plus minutes you cannot expect results.

    The 1980 Olympics may be an exception I concede. But it’s the only exception I can think of: Olympic Basketball was never taken seriously by many nations until recently. Basketball still is not the leading sport in a single nation: Football is except in the US where it is Pigskin.

    I actually wanted this discussion to be on English Football and its shortcoming but I guess everyone wants to talk about the US: that’s fine with me as well.

  28. Michael

    August 14, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Kartik, you’re right about how it was an amateur competition then, but Chris’ point is valid. The Soviet team was made up of professionals, who had jobs in the Army as a front basically; they played hockey for a living. Beating them was the greatest accomplishment in American sports history, of that there can be no doubt. Because you personally perhaps don’t lend much credence to that win, and the gold medal that followed, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t significant, both for its magnitude on the ice and for what it meant during that time politically.

    10 nations that care about hockey in the Olympics? Sweden, US, Canada, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Belarus, etc. Remember, not as many teams play in the Olympics or World Championship as play in soccer’s World Cup, and hockey needs much more infrastructure and a suitable climate. It’s harder to develop hockey players than it is to bring along young soccer players, at least in many countries.

    Also, the US didn’t have a gift draw. Holland (two-time defending U-21 European Champion) and Nigeria (defending U-17 World Champion) have always been strong at youth level, and no one really expected the US to get out of this group. Again, just because you did doesn’t echo the feelings of the vast majority out there. The only game the US was favored in was against Japan, and they took care of business there. The other two teams in the group are better than the US, and it’s not particularly close.

  29. doc

    August 14, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    I don’t understand the ‘manipulate to our advantage’ comment. That honestly doesn’t make any sense. We play our games, and if the rest of the world doesn’t want to play, that’s their problem. We’re quite content with our own professional leagues (except for MLS).

  30. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    August 14, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    If you can find me more than 10 nations that take the Winter Olympics in Ice Hockey (which was then an amateur competition) seriously then I stand corrected.

    Why do Europeans recently almost always beat the US in the Ryder Cup even though the Americans on the team are always ranked higher in the world ratings? The same mentality I describe.

    Honestly given the gift draw the US had in the Olympics avoiding Brazil or Argentina, getting less than 7 points is not acceptable. The selfishness of our players like Stuart Holden and Freddy Adu shone through brightly when we had Holland dead and they had even quit from all indications on the match. (The fact that Emanuel Ekpo who plays in MLS featured in all 3 Nigeria matches says a lot to me: he wouldn’t even make the US player pool let alone the team, yet we got beat by a team that featured him thanks to a silly red card)

    England is different. They produce real sportsman who understand self sacrifice. Going through what England went through in World War II gives the Anglos a perspective we Americans will never have.

    But now they are losing that as Rio Ferdinand describes. That was the point of this article.

  31. The Gaffer

    August 14, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Here’s a comment that was posted, but ended up in the wrong place on the blog, but the comment is as follows:

    “Alex // Aug 14, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    “I live in a nation, the United States who has never accomplished in any internationally competitive team sport what England did that wonderful summer forty two years ago. Americans prefer team sports they can dominate or manipulate the rules to their advantage.”

    -Perhaps you’ve never heard of the 1980 US Mens Olympic Hockey team?”

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