Reasons for England Football Fans to be Cheerful

1966:  The England Team pose with the Jules Rimet Trophy after winning the World Cup against West Germany at Wembley. Top row left to right: trainer Harold Shepherdson, Nobby Stiles, Roger Hunt, Gordon Banks, Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Ray Wilson, Manager Alf Ramsey, and bottom row, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore, Alan Ball and Bobby Charlton.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Supposedly, the Three Lions on England football shirts represent pride, passion and courage. Clearly, it’s time for a kit redesign.

Even as England’s footballing lions shriveled into meek kittens in the World Cup cauldron it may be finally sinking in that England are ordinary. They’re capable of qualifying for major tournaments, perhaps even making the knock-out rounds, but it’s been 44 years since they last won, and 20 since making the semi-finals.

After so many underwhelming performances, I’m starting to catch on – England’s footballers are not good enough to win major tournaments without a massive dose of good luck. As usual, lady luck scorned upon England, but even had she smiled brightly, even had she mollycoddled the Three Kittens, it would not muffle their pitiful, shivering meows on the big stage.

England’s luck was bad, but their players were worse. Recognizing this in the cold light of day is cathartic and may relieve England fans of the usual post-tournament wallowing. But if you’re still despondent, here are a few reasons to be cheery.

Since England invented the game it seems entirely fitting that their misfortune provide the impetus for goal-line technology. Instant replays either on the stadium’s Jumbotron or fans’ I Phones quickly proved that Frank Lampard’s shot against Germany crossed the line.

A once intransigent Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA, appeared contrite at a post-game meeting. After all, his arguments against employing technology — maintaining human control and ensuring the game’s continuity — were shredded by the facts. For example, one possible technology known as Hawk Eye can provide near instant proof, and is certainly less disruptive than indignant players swarming a hapless, out of control referee for two minutes.

Another reason to cheer up is we didn’t lose on penalty kicks. This is no small thing — England can no longer mask technical deficiencies with the veil of penalty kick caprice for their players cowered not on the penalty spot, but all over the field.

Still, England is pretty good at other sports. It’s only been 7 years since we won the Rugby world cup; and we’re the only nation to have won both the Rugby and Football world cups. In athletics, motor sports, golf, cycling, and even cricket, the Three Lions occasionally roar. Indeed, Great Britain finished fourth in the 2008 summer Olympic Games medal table – the only European country higher was Russia.

There’s another reason for a stiff upper lip: While our overpaid, overhyped, and overrated players are over and out, England’s outstanding officiating crew are still over there. Indeed, had Howard Webb not already taken charge of the Champions League final, he’d probably get the world cup final. Nevertheless, the impressive Webb and assistants have a good chance to officiate a semi-final in S. Africa. Now, when you consider all the goals either improperly allowed or disallowed, this is a big deal. In fact, referees can, even unwittingly, become the most valuable “players” should their decision-making inappropriately affect the score.

As an expat, I’d be proud to see Englishman Howard Webb take charge of a semi-final if not the final. Interestingly, in his “daytime job” Webb is a police officer. This reminds me of an old joke, I paraphrase: in a perfect world, the cooks are French; the lovers are Italian; the Swiss run the trains; and the police are British.

A fair and just police is tops for me because a disciplined, restrained and fair police force underpins a free, open society and can take centuries to form. With Officer Howard Webb taking control we may just get a perfect World Cup semi-final decided by team performances instead of injudicious refereeing.

If these tidbits do not allay your football misery, just remember – at least we’re not French. Not only are their football team in shambles, but French referee Stephane Lannoy was also sent home by FIFA for poor performance. C’est la vie.

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  1. Devils Advocate July 3, 2010
  2. patrick July 4, 2010
  3. Dave C July 6, 2010
  4. NSW July 8, 2010

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