Restored Faith is coming home…

The tag line of my very first book was to ’embrace the unexpected’ and I know, I’m tooting my own horn here, especially when it comes to my work, because pretty much nobody else will.

It seems every other review I get these days is just a snarky half autistic commentary nit picking the finer details of what are in my opinion good enough stories, but after all that is all they are stories, and this summer has produced one of the finest stories right out of the unexpected. I’m talking about the FIFA world cup and England.

proud

I’m making my return to blogging after quite a long stretch of radio silence, that’s what writers do, they recede to the words, I’m busy with stuff that’s all but even I had to stop and take note of the past month. I want this entry to be more of a love letter than just a remorseful sulk towards yet another knock out of the three lions and I have good reason. We all have good reason for this to be positive.

Nobody including me even thought England would have a chance of reaching the last 4 of a 32 team competition. I just looked forward to seeing a game of international football every night for a few weeks, there’s just a more interesting vibe about the international game, that combined with a tournament makes it must watch-anything-can-happen-television. And then England played their first game…

As I tuned in via the BBC I player to see England take on Tunisia I really didn’t know how to feel or what to expect. Truth is, the last proper game of England football I followed was against Iceland, an embarrassing and probable all time low point, but even before then my nerve endings were singed and near dead (memories of 2014, 2010 and even 2006 were responsible for this). As I rallied behind the many unknown faces to me wearing the three lions kit I then got that usual frustrated feeling I always used to get, I guess that just comes with watching England, then Tunisia equalized via a penalty and it pretty much looked like a carbon copy of every damn England tournament game, ever.

England are always the architects of our own demise or some controversy always denied us, and then something unusually special happened. Harry Kane scored a winning goal in injury time. A small glimmer of hope began to form in many of our imaginations, could we actually do this? Was lady luck finally siding with England?

Fast forward to a Wednesday night in July and the whole country were united in watching our football team for the first time since I could really remember. The journey there became intertwined with a nation falling back into love with international football, this time so well documented in the internet age. The memes were rife and the world couldn’t look away or ignore the fact that football was coming home. It didnt rain in all the time England were in the world cup.

Then you have to rewind, this thing may read like a Tarantino scene shuffler but you have to look back in history, for me my earliest memory of England was that grey kit, Alan Shearer, Gazza and the old Wembley Stadium. I was seven years old when my dad moved the sofa closer to our tv to watch my first taste of England football glory.

southgate

I sat there 22 years ago watching the man who is now our manager miss a penalty against Germany in Euro 96′.  That moment hurt all the way up until this year because now I find myself with nothing but respect for the man toting the waistcoat as he gracefully and calmly marched himself into football legend. Gareth Southgate’s efforts wouldn’t be enough to go past an experienced hard working Croatia team, but there are so many positives this time. He redeemed himself from 96’s clutches and that folks is the greatest part of this story and so now when I looked up to that England team as they faced a well turned out group of fans after all their efforts, I felt nothing but hope. 

We didn’t lose in controversy, there were no cheats or red cards, there was no real negativity, we weren’t robbed, even in defeat England had finally earned the faith of their following again. The black heart of disappointment finally began to beat again even if we fell on our sword, we fought all we could.

England reached a fine turning point this summer, they won a penalty shoot out, and rightfully deserved, Columbia were a threat and also bad sports. That moment is when I fully believed this whole deal had changed and that is what England fans must take away from a truly wonderful effort. Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing, and I honestly predicted England to bow out via the semi finals, something we hadn’t reached in nearly thirty years mind!

For the first time in a generation the England manager represents nothing less than hope and respect. The future of this young now big match experienced team is bright, yes it hurts, it will for a while, but then there is a belief which will shine through. We’ve got our national team back, and if I could travel back to 1996 and tell my seven year old self that we would get to the semi finals of the 2018 world cup, just after we bowed out to Germany, I know I would take that. Don’t be angry, be sad for a while but know that England’s best is yet to come! I’ve followed football all my life and even the club I religiously followed (QPR), had their day a number of times, trust me, one day it will come home for England, but for now we will have to settle for restored belief, pride, faith and more importantly hope.

It was nice to have that belief, even if it was temporary it united England for just a few weeks and I am sure it will again. Thank you England. 

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A giant leap for world football perhaps?

Hopefully a leap in the right direction because no matter what decade or competition of modern football taking place there has always been some form of controversy shortly following.

This week FIFA (the world governing body of football) was rocked to the very core by corruption allegations and several arrests were made. Now anyone who has taken a following to football will know that FIFA and maybe all football organisations are or can be bent in some way. Many accept it for what it is, what can the average fan do about it?

hand of god

The famous ‘hand of god’ went on to help Argentina beat England in the FIFA world cup, yes the goal counted

I can count with all of my fingers and toes after coming away from a game thinking something else other than athleticism is at play as to why a team won. The poor decisions made by referees intimidated by players, managers in their ear and maybe more. Players themselves even sometimes deliberately doing something they shouldn’t. The money involved in football is stupid, to the point where it can cross over to crime. A world cup will produce a major payday for the host nation. Maybe if they ‘influence’ the deciding board in FIFA they can get their way.

This is one of the many allegations brought forward by the US justice department.

I will go back to the US in a moment but the sport of football is very easy to corrupt in certain favours. Compared to other sports such as tennis and cricket who both use third umpire type technology to make a decision leaves no room for error or ‘control’. Computers can make the decision.

hawkeye

Hawkeye technology used in tennis

 

The sheer way football is refereed at match level is so easily fixed. In rugby if a decision is looking shady the on pitch referee will talk to an off pitch referee over a microphone broadcast to television audiences. Nothing to hide.

Why hasn’t football got this? Because FIFA and the other bodies below them wouldn’t be able to corrupt the game in their favour of a bung or bribe. Money again.

Only recently has goal line technology been introduced (world cup 2014) and is used in the english Premier league but previously Sepp Blatter made no efforts to do this for the wider world.

The truth is, football governing needs to change. It has been needed to for a very long time.

Getting to a point where United States government to get involved means it is serious. Nothing against their agenda here because there is always an agenda or something to gain with them. But something has pissed them off. Maybe the fact that these accusations to FIFA officials of taking bribes, racketeering and wire fraud that used US banks could have something to do with it.

We are still in the wake and sights of a large financial crisis, the US banks have somewhat recovered. But this sort of behaviour towards them doesn’t look good for the 14 people accused.

Today we see the rather unsettled FIFA take a vote on who their leader will be next. The choice is either Sepp Blatter, or Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan. A new face and a change could lead the charge against a corrupt free world of football.

sepp

Sepp or the Prince?

The English Football association and European football governing body UEFA have both indicated a boycott to future world cups. If enough nations get on board then things will have to change, it’s needed. For the sake of the game.