Thursday, 24 June 2010

Misplaced patriotism?

Yesterday England breathed a collective sigh of relief as our World Cup team scored a long-overdue victory that secured our place in the next stage of the competition.

The relentless hype surrounding the England campaign may have calmed down momentarily, but as Sunday’s showdown against Germany – already being hailed as a rerun of the infamous 1966 final – approaches, rumours of dressing-room drama are already coming to the fore.

Admittedly, I’m not the greatest football fan, but I think we need to get our priorities sorted here. For starters, the World Cup so far has been painfully bland. Performances have been lacklustre and uninspiring (Spain’s defeat to Switzerland, England’s failure to dominate an easy group), to such an extent that strong teams haven’t even made it past the group stages (shame on you, Italy and France).

And yet, the press has still managed to extract stories out of this gloom. John Terry’s comments – and Fabio Capello’s subsequent backlash – were immediately pounced upon and whipped up into a media frenzy of ridiculous proportions. You wouldn’t even have known that the emergency budget was announced the day before, such was the media dominance of the England squad. Even my school, currently immersed in exams and supposedly promoting ‘sensible attitudes’ towards revision, actually went to the lengths of rescheduling our General Studies paper so that it would finish in time for us to watch the England-Slovenia match. I think it’s time we took a break.

In fact, hidden behind the oppressive shadow of the World Cup is another competition that has recently begun – Wimbledon. And unlike the tedious matches we’ve endured in the World Cup so far, Wimbledon has been home to some absolute corkers. Federer got through to the next round by the skin of his teeth, Nadal came up against surprisingly stiff competition, and whilst Rooney’s ankle and Green’s fingers have been intensely scrutinised, Murray’s seemingly optimistic Wimbledon chances seem to have been woefully overlooked. The real thriller, however, was the 11-hour battle between Isner and Mahut fought in the outlying depths of Court 18. It was a match of epic proportions, smashing numerous world records and stretching out over three exhausting days. And yet it was still overshadowed by the news of Italy’s defeat to Slovakia or Beckenbauer’s comments on England’s chances.

Green: the face says it all really.

It strikes me that if we continue to obsess so rapaciously over our World Cup campaign, it’ll be over before we know it. There’s sometimes a fine line between patriotism and aggression, one that has already been crossed by many over-zealous fans. Let’s keep it calm, shall we? What both ourselves and our players need now is to take a break from all the unhealthy attention being paid to the minutiae of our campaign and come back to face Germany feeling refreshed and revived. We need to stop the incessant fixation on what our players are up to and allow them to focus with the game in hand. With a bit more detachment and a more mature attitude, a win could well come as a pleasant surprise.

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