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Sunday, 3rd December 2023


Despite a last 16 exit from the 2010 FIFA World Cup Raj Joshi provides us with 5 reasons to be proud of English football, the England national team and the World Cup.

Isn’t it extraordinary how sport breaks down cultural and historical barriers? England V Germany or England V Argentina were often sold as grudge matches. The media’s behaviour in this way is not good leadership. The big question is when will England go beyond and into the last 8? For now we are left with supporting the magic of Argentina and watching in awe at the magician; Lionel Messi, the exuberance of the Spaniards and the passion of the Portuguese. Who says prejudice cannot be ousted by sport? Indeed many public sector organisations regularly use sport as a tool to forge cohesion in local communities as well as forming a bond of trust between two parties.

At the last World Cup David Beckham led the “kick racism out of football campaign,” but this time he was unable to play. The manager, (Capello’s), understanding of motivation and leadership ensured that the “spirit” and “inspiration” of an Englishman was not left behind. Trust in one’s staff is crucial and it is a historical first that no other England player had previously been asked to perform such an important function. However ti is the media hype and expectations that follows our national team and its management  that always dogs us; the only other national team to operate within such tight boundaries is Italy. The amount of pressure placed on individual players by this aspect of British culture is questionable, but could this pressure itself stifle an individual and team performance? Compare and contrast the performance of teams where there is no such conceptual barrier.

“Booing” the national team is a no no for it drains confidence further and it is only when a manager and a country free people to perform to their natural skills that the World becomes a theatre echoing with the words, “sing sing Africa.” The FA now has a responsibility to do something more creative in terms of a longer term approach in a moment of crisis, yet what can often happen is that the focus of perceived failure falls on one or two individuals. Some are already calling for the sacking or resignation of Capello but whilst his stubbornness and regime may need tweaking he is arguably still the best person for this job.

Just look at the richness of Diversity within English Club football. There are many top foreign players at the World Cup who either play in the premiership, are going to play in the premiership, or have played in the premiership; for example Dempsey and Donovan (USA), Boating (Germany), Hernandez, (Mexico), Drogba, Eboue (Ivory Coast), Kuyt, Van Persie, Babel, (Netherlands), Ces Fabregas, Torres, Alonso, (Spain), Mascherano, Tevez, (Argentina), Bendtner, (Denmark), Evra, Henri, Anelka, Malouda, (France). Nani, Ronaldo, (Portugal). Here are a few others; Skirtl, Kyrgiakos , Agger, and Toure. Indeed some may say that this diversity is the cause for England's poor form.

However, the reality is, if you play with the best players in the world day in day out, you become a better player. Diversity is a “natural” concept if one wants to be the best one can be and compete in the world stage. Take for example James Milner. He provided devastating crosses of the ball in the World cup. Lampard hit the cross bar with a skilful free kick and he lobbed the German goalkeeper in the “disallowed goal.” And this example will lead the argument for goal line technology in World football. Defoe and Gerard also scored clinically, but such precision can only occur if you are playing with the best. 

Whilst the FA presides over what to do now the answer is not as simple as removing one man; our players, our system and culture remain. Yet it is those countries with more freedom, a proven youth system, an academy, like the Dutch, the Germans, and the South Americans, that are able to produce a consistent breadth of talent in numbers. Producing one of the most prestigious and most demanding leagues in the world leaves our players over exerted at the most crucial of times. Exit at the last 16 is no failure when one notches up the club achievements of each individual. And the premiership still remains the most watched leagues in Africa. The premiership and FA must remain proud and build on the success of the premiership but to show hostility towards our players is neither diverse or ethical.


Article added on 28th June 2010 at 3:44pm