After another seemingly interminable international break – just when our players ought to be itching to get out there and put right what went wrong at St.Mary’s – we asked our panel how much they care about international football and whether it matters to them. One- or two-word answers were strongly discouraged.
By Daniel Rhodes:
When I wirra lad, international football was up alongside club football. At least on a par, at times I enjoyed it more. It was a bygone age when all my mates could get together and support the same team. No tribalism, just the early seeds of casual xenophobia. It had an intoxicating grip.
Italy 1990 (I was 9): the sweeper system, Roger Milla’s exotic dancing, England’s group of draws, David Platt’s swivelled volley, the ‘lucky’ penalties against Cameroon, the heartbreaking penalties against West Germany, Gazza’s tears, my tears. I loved it.
USA 1994: the seed of doubt is planted. I’m not sure I like all these horrible newspapers lambasting my beloved national team. Do I not like orange either, Graham. You tell ’em.
EURO ’96: The pinnacle. The peak of my innocent, nationalistic ignorance. The demolition of Holland, Gazza again – this time tears of hypothetical alcohol as he celebrates a wonder goal against the Scots. The inconsistent Spanish, a penalty shoot-out success. The consistent German machine, a penalty shoot-out defeat. The injustice.
There have been other moments. And if I’m honest, I still enjoy it. But the passion has gone. I remember a chat with my Dad about why he was so ambivalent to England, and so passionate about Halifax Town. He said after years of the same high expectations, with the same inevitable disappointment, he’d just prefer the latter, without the former. Indeed. A lesson in life for any northerner.
And then came Roy Hodgson, a manager to trigger ambivalence if ever there was one.
By Dave Cronin:
I have a love/hate relationship with international football. I love a good summer tournament seeing Europe’s or the World’s finest go toe to toe. However, I hate the qualifying and preparation processes leading to them; having the season disrupted and preparation for matches jeopardised by Liverpool players travelling around the world and returning on the eve of a vital game injured or fatigued.
I hate how British journalists discuss the events of the previous week’s football in the context of what it means for England. E.g. “Player X is in good form, should Sven/McLaren/Capello/Hodgson pick him for our vital qualifier against Lichtenstein?” “What does X player’s injury mean for England’s chances in this summer’s tournament?” as though the implications for his club are of secondary importance. “Are there too many foreigners in the game and should we cap the quality of our League?” as if limiting foreigners would improve the standard of English players. Then, (with complete irony): “Should uncapped foreigners like Almunia, Di Canio and Owen Hargreaves be considered to represent England?”
I hate the twisted expectation that I should get behind the likes of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney after spending the season despising them (add Roy Hodgson to that).
I hate the hysteria with people who don’t watch football at any other time donning replica shirts and face paints to pack out pubs in expectation of something incredible that anyone with more than a passive interest in the game knows will not happen. Then the same ignoramuses have the audacity to start slating the likes of Gerrard, Carragher, even Owen, back before his fall from grace, authoritatively questioning their levels of technical ability, effort and pride in the shirt based on three to five games after a long season of constant football.
More hate than love.
By James Keen:
The short answer is hardly at all. I have all but given up watching England matches; they haven’t given me any pleasure for quite some time. This is partly because the teams are so bad, but partly because I feel no connection to the national side anymore. The self-aggrandising bunch that made up the self-proclaimed “golden generation” has ruined it for me. This self-inflated sense of our own importance as a football nation (one major final!) has got gradually worse and has always existed but in the Premier league era has reached almost insane proportions.
On top of that the international scene generally has virtually no cache anymore. Friendlies are totally pointless, not even having the sense of Rugby Union tests where even non- Six Nations or World Cup games still are important. The simple truth is in the era of the Champions League, international football is nowhere near the pinnacle of the game anymore. FIFA are determined to devalue the word ‘cup’ by increasing the number of finals qualifiers and selling the tournament to the highest bidder. The fact is, a Champions League Final will contain more quality players than a World Cup Final and as football has become ever more cosmopolitan and multinational at league level so the international game holds fewer surprises.
By Bob Pearce:
Short & sweet.
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