The long-awaited World Cup is here, direct from Brazil, where the nations of the world assemble their elite footballers and put their super teams on show. Each team hopes to power through the rounds, fighting off other foreign lands with their fancy football skills, silly haircuts and Oscar-winning performances of falling over.
I’ll admit that I am a half-hearted football fan. I was raised a Tottenham supporter by lifelong fans (my Dad and older brother) and I have married a Chelsea supporter who is raising two Chelsea supporting sons. I’m not sure my Dad would have agreed to the wedding had he been an Arsenal fan though! I admit that premiership football does bore me slightly, where top teams are funded by billionaires playing fantasy football with their never-ending cash flows. But the World Cup does appeal to me, as every team has their own unique style. You have the celebrity footballers putting on their best performance as an obvious audition, in order to get poached by a leading club. Then you have the underdogs, the countries that you have to Google to find out where they are, the teams with that rabbit caught in the headlights look about them, where they just scatter about looking a bit like my 6-year-old sons team on a Saturday. It really is entertaining.
And no matter what your opinion is of this country, when England are in the running, you can’t beat the feeling of national pride, with the St. Georges Cross adorning houses and cars across the country, pubs packed full to the rafters with supporters, all hoping that this year could be the one!
But it never is. We know how bad England are but we never give up on them as we know they could be better. We still talk about 1966 or Italia 90, try to hang on to that now forgotten greatness, praying that this year we will be our year. Then it dawns on us that we might not be match fit, that the team was probably assembled by Roy Hodgson using the eeny meeny miny mo technique to choose his elite squad, with the players meeting for the first time on the plane. Perhaps we can blame it on the weather? I mean it is quite hot in Brazil and our boys just aren’t used to the heat. Plus the pitch just isn’t up to scratch, I bet there are lots of potholes where Gerard or Sturridge could break an ankle in these sorts of conditions! With plenty of excuses prepared, we hope that England can surprise us. We have an easyish group, we are certain to at least go through to the next round. I mean Spain went out and they were World Cup winners from the last tournament so anything can happen!
So we watched the first game against Italy with bated breath, we shouted at the TV screen, gave random instructions as if we were experts in the game, pleaded with the players to just try that little bit harder in order to actually get the ball in the back of the net. But we lost, 2-1. We did alright, we tried our best, next match will be better. Blitz spirit and all that. Italy were a good side, we will have no problem with Uruguay, isn’t that Suarez fellow nursing a knee injury? It’s in the bag!
Oh dear, de ja vu, 2-1 again. Time to pack your hair net Wayne, home we go. But hang on, if Italy beat Costa Rica and Uruguay and then we beat Costa Rica, isn’t there a chance for us? Can’t we even get something for trying our best? That’s how it works at my son’s football, couldn’t England could get some sort of free pass for not spitting as much as the other teams?
Whatever happens, we will be the same at the next World Cup. We will hang our flags, sing that Frank Skinner football song clinging on to that hope that the final will one day be in our grasp. My advice to Roy would be to try to organise a way to have my Mum on an earpiece direct to the players on the pitch. If they could hear her disappointed tone of ‘For goodness sake, you’re not even trying!’ they would most certainly buck up their ideas!