Monday, 14 June 2010


Speaking as a foreigner as I sometimes do - as a kind of bemused observer if you like - I am tempted to say English sport deserves nothing because the people who claim to take an interest in it deserve nothing.

The case of Fabio Capello is a perfect illustration. The man took the team through a most successful qualifying campaign with a lot of goals and some nice football along the way. Now England have drawn rather than won a game, chiefly because of one irrational goalkeeping mistake, he is being set up as a fool. I don't mean just by the usual tabloid suspects, but by 'fans'.

But such fans are not only idiots of the first water, they are cringingly undeserving. Fortitude? No. Resilience? No. Patience? No. Consistency? No. Actual support? No. They claim to admire such qualities but show none of them.

Odd perhaps to use a term like moral fibre - it sounds so terribly old fashioned! - but I want to use it if only because I don't imagine you can do much without it. Is there any moral fibre in evidence? No.

Has anyone actually won anything lacking fortitude, resilience, patience, consistency and support?


The hacks and the 'fans' deserve each other. Nor are the 'fans' merely the mob - they include those generally credited with more intelligence.

My four liner of several years ago applies here:

Welcome to England, the land of the pound,
Where judges are wigged and monarchs are crowned,
Where whether you're Jack Flash or Roger the Dodger
The war cry is bound to be Wanker!! or Gotcha!!

There are long historical reasons for this, but knowing that doesn't help. You can see the results - a team that is scared to make mistakes, that therefore makes mistakes, that can take neither penalties nor responsibility because every individual member of it is fully aware that a perverse demon in the nation actually prefers to see him carry cans rather than trophies.

That demon works on people's gut instinct that other people's inadequacies excuse theirs.

Still, I expect they will get what they fully deserve which is pity and contempt. Should England get anywhere near that final, the best thing Capello could do is to resign and blow a raspberry.


James said...

I haven't had the time to actually check this, but here's an interesting paragraph of claims about England under Ericksson that puts things in a slightly different light from the usual:

"Managed to reach the quarter final in three consecutive tournaments (WC 2002, Euro 2004, WC 2006). No other European country achieved this during this period, and on an international level only Brazil. England was also, apart from Sweden, the only European country that did not suffer elimination from group play or failure to qualify during this time (2001–2006)."

I agree with you that the English media are turning on Capello (out of boredom more than anything, I suspect) but - still feeling rather burned after 2006 - I admit I'm reading as little of it as I can.

George S said...

It's not just the press, James - it is the commenters to the press.

The implication: If only that fool Capello had half the guts and intelligence that I, ordinary Joe, have!

Continued implication: I know I'm rubbish really, so it's consoling to suggest that others are even more rubbish. Their big rubbishness puts my little rubbishness in perspective.

Not admirable either way. Yob qualities - and yobs sooner or later (often sooner) get what they deserve.

Billy C said...

Bravo, George. It takes a 'foreigner' to tell it as it really is. Well, one who has a brain and can see things everyone should see.

At times. I'm ashamed to be English: British. But where did it all go wrong? It wasn't always like this. Well, not in such large doses of wrongness.

I'm trying to fathom out how we morphed from a nation that had self respect to one that has very little. Why do we now have a press that is so irresponsible and which panders to the lowest common denominator as if they are all that matters? Why do many of our citizens feel the need to hate, to apportion blame, want not to take responsibility?

Just what has brought this change about? To my recollection, it began in the late 1950's. Is it because powerful trades unions thought they were king? Is it because Thatcher knocked the stuffing out of the backbone of our society, leaving them feeling disenfrachised and unworthy - I'm not part of it so I don't care?

Or, is it the dimunition of moral values which began in the 60's and 70's? That was the time when morals became unfashionable and sex and drugs became the norm.

Or is it the dilution of the population by uncontrolled immigration? (I've given that some thought and dismissed it because, by and large, those who immigrated have better moral values than those who can claim centuries of birthright to this land.)

Regarding football matters, I knew the moment Green made his schoolboy error that he would be demonized: the new fall-guy so many need to fulfil their psyche of needing one. As you say, George, Capello has done very little wrong and yet the moment something goes not quite right, he's the devil incarnate. Like you, (but I go one step further) I hope he lifts the world cup and then blows a raspberry to an undeserving group of people who masquerade under the banner of 'fans'.

I could go on but I'm sick and tired of control freaks; those who need to play the blame-game; those for whom life has little meaning unless their every wishes are being pandered to and think success is their birthright. Moral fibre? They don't know what it means, George.

George S said...

The late 50's is an interesting suggestion, Billy. That would be the rise of the Angry Young Men and the end of what some call 'deference culture'. It would also include the setting up of Private Eye, the satire boom, and much else.

As ever there are gains and losses. It is fascinating that the end of 'deference culture' should have come to a generation that had voted the Tories out in 1945, had set up the National Health Service and much else. It's not the word 'deference' that springs to mind there. But then the Tories are voted back in, and you get Suez and One-Nation-Toryism / Butskellism (Butler / Gaitskell if you remember) and Macmillan's 'wind of change' speech that recognizes the end of Empire. All that is late Fifties, early Sixties.

Then Summer of Love, Vietnam, Three Day Week, Winter of Discontent, Thatcherism, Things Can Only Get Better, and the spin machine.

Complex times and many reasons for the decline into yobbishness. A yobbishness I thought we might be emerging from.

Find George Mikes's How to be an Alien at a second-hand bookshop. You might know it already, but it gives a foreigner's view of a very different, just postwar England.

Billy C said...

The late 50's would also be a time when the middle classes began to wane. I once remember you and I having a debate on the middle classes and I said they no longer existed. You disagreed with me, but I still think I'm right. There is a middle class now, but it's lost moral fibre. Instead, it's a class of convenience/wealth rather than morals. You're right, we have lost that deference culture. But who's fault is that? Is it the watered down version of a class than was once looked up to and no longer deseves deference, or is it because we've assumed we are all equal, which we are not.

Perhaps we should invent another class to replace the middle class, one that represents more than monetary achievement. In this day and age, they are two-a-penny. How about the 'Cultural Classes'? At least that would set them apart and be something to aim for.

I spent last weekend with winger and Trezza. That's the sort of class I mean. Despite their humble beginnings, their moral fibre is something to look up to. And I do.

George S said...

I don't think it was bad to lose the deference culture, Billy - it may be simply that we haven't replaced it with a respect culture. Even though the idea of being respectable has vanished or diminished, we still want to be respected. The question is - for what?

We can't invent classes we can only notice them and try to describe them. Even the middle class - as I argued before - was a multi-layered group with inner tensions.

I'm not sure how far yob culture is class-based. The educated yob, the public school yob, the lower-middle class white-collar yob, the working class yob are all yobs. The class 'yob' covers them all and gives them plenty of common characteristics. I suspect they will all recognise the common elements of yob culture in each other.

A lot of reading to be done here - and I haven't done it.