albert.jpgBy Albert Chekai
In the article ‘The night the vuvuzelas went silent’ the cliché ‘football was invented by the English and perfected by the Brazilians’ was redefined with the sentence ’…but was destroyed by the South Africans’ being added. But after the display by England against Germany the same saying has again undergone refurbishment and goes like “though the English invented football which was later perfected by the Brazilians and distorted by South Africans, the same English destroyed the sport they founded”.

 

But World Cup 2010 will not just be remembered for mere words and phrases. It will be remembered for tragedies on the field of play as well as Cinderella stories. The story of a black star of Africa which outshone 50 American stars will pass as one of the fairy tales of the 2010 World Cup. While little Ghana made history for the right reasons by qualifying into the quarter finals for the first time and becoming the third African country to achieve it, England were making history for the wrong reasons.

A colleague who watched the England-Germany match later remarked to me that as she was watching the match, she began to doubt whether the English had actually invented the sport of football. But what is the fuss about England? Is it the first and only country to be knocked out in the second round of the World Cup? Certainly not, but there is everything wrong with the way the English view their team. Affectionately known as The Three Lions, England is an overrated team which has for far too long lived in a fantasy world created by its own media.

Typically of the snobbish nature of the English media, they have made heroes out of nothing. This can be epitomized by no other image than that of David Beckham. How on earth a player whose ability was only to bend free kicks and corner kicks could be put in the same level as the irreplaceable Zinedine Zidane who won one world cup and lost another in the final? Or Brazilian legend Ronaldo who won the 1994 and 2002 World Cups and lost the 1998 edition in the finals scoring a record equaling 17 goals? The world watched helplessly as the English media transformed a man popular for his looks more than soccer skills into the highest earning football super star.

 

In a country where raw talent is as rare as water at planet Venus, the English media has created its own imaginary football stars whose talent goes no further than magazine pages as they turn out to be total flops at the grand stage. Somehow, the English have succeeded in almost convincing the world that England is a soccer giant.

It was this same media which branded England one of the favorites at South Africa 2010. Some went as far as labeling the Three Toothless Lions among the World Cup 2010 favourites alongside such giants as Brazil, Argentina and Germany. Somehow, the English media decided to ignore all logic by believing that a country which failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, lost in the second round in 1998, lost in the quarter finals in 2002 and again failed to go beyond the last 16 in 2006 can be in the same class with the Samba Boys who have played in all the 18 World Cup tournaments since 1930. Such a gross omission (or commission?) is surely evidence that ‘plurality of the media is no guarantee for plurality of ideas’. So who said England can be in the same class with three time winners Germany? Who said the three lions have teeth?  The question was answered on Sunday the 27th of June 2010.

 

To England, the day was as tragic as events at Dunkirk, France in June 1940 when the British, Belgium and French soldiers were routed by Hitler’s war machine. In his address in the House of Commons titled ‘We shall fight on the breaches’ Winston Churchill called the events in France “a colossal military disaster”, saying that “the whole root and core and brain of the British Army” had been stranded at Dunkirk and seemed about to perish or be captured. He hailed their rescue in an operation called ‘Dynamo’ as a “miracle of deliverance”.

But South Africa is nowhere near  Dunkirk and unlike in 1940 when every British ship and boat were mobilized to rescue 338 226 troops from the Germany army, this time the bunch of tired boys representing the English Army and calling themselves The Three Lions were left at the mercy of the ruthless German war machine. The Biblical King David’s lament over the death of King Saul might be re-written with England in mind. “Your glory O, England lieth slain on your heights, how the Mighty have fallen.

 

Tell it not in Berlin or Bonn. Proclaim it not in the streets of Munich. Lest the daughters of the Germans rejoice. Lest Franz Beckenbauer’s boys be glad. O, you Bloemfontein stadium, may your ground have no turf. For there the three lions were humiliated.  Rooney, Terry and Gerard, when winning they were pleasant, and in defeat they were horrible……..”

To say England were beaten is being economic with the truth, the Three Lions were taught a football lesson leaving their fans shocked. But to those who are realistic, there was no shock at all. England was no match for Germany. England have always been good only in the eyes of the English media and when reality finally sank that a whole country was living a lie, it was shattering. That there is something wrong with a country which claims to have invented soccer going to two successive World Cup tournaments under the guidance of expatriate coaches somehow escaped the English media.

Blame it on Fabio Capello (pity the Old Italian who suffered a double blow after his country Italy was also humiliated), maybe. How could he opt for Emilie Heskey ahead of Darren Bent? Why leave Theo Walcott? But where are the good players in England? Blame John Terry’s scandal which forced Wayne Bridge to opt out of the England squad? Maybe. Blame the referee for that disallowed Lampard goal? How about those lightning two Thomas Muller strikes as one headline later read: “England Mullered by Germany”.

Beckenbauer may have summed it up in his post match interview, “England were overwhelmed – they just could not come to terms with our style of play,” he said. “We have taken England apart. We were simply better in every aspect”.

Well, the England squad is back home. Reality is now sinking that England is not better than Ghana. Is this not the time for the English media to have introspection as the Prophet Jeremiah puts it… ‘let’s examine our ways and return back to the Lord..’(No to 1966 the year of English glory). For us the truth is plain. England were never good. The story of England at South Africa 2010 was that of little Cinderella in her rugs who wanted to be transformed into a Queen but instead it should have been just about Cinderella in her old rugs looking more Queenly. England got the best that they should have got. Second round exit for that bunch of tired players! What a big achievement!