England and a Football Failure.England are out of the Euro 2004 football competition. I'm sure you know that already - it's hardly news now, is it. But, the story continues nontheless.
The match itself was pretty unremarkable up until the last, dying moments. A goal was disallowed by the Swiss referee because of the English players jostling and pushing the goalkeeper. Nothing new about that, is there. I mean, players push and grab - kick, trip and hit each other all the time, don't they. So, why should England be penalised because they do it?
It's because it is against the rules - and the spirit - of the game. That's why. If English football players would like to play a "contact" game, they should try to play rugby, heaven knows that the English rugby squad need some new players on the team! Football, however, is classified as a "non contact" sport. I suspect there aren't many players that would manage to make much of an impression in rugby though - they are just not up to playing a real mans game at all - with the possible exception of Rooney, that is. He is the young man that has become the star turn of the English football establishment, with a value placed on him in the order of £50million now. I wonder how long it will be before the young, inexperienced Liverpool lad that currently is playing for Everton, the 'other' Liverpool club - ex middleweight boxer - becomes intoxicated and then destroyed by the fame, glamour and money that football brings to it's little 'Gladiators"? Not long, I suspect, before he discovers that 'Coke" is the "real thing" for him!
But, back to the game for a moment. A couple of days ago I poked scorn at the Italian side for crying "fix" in the direction of the two Scandinavian teams that, by drawing, both went through into the next round of the competition. Well, now England are doing the same thing. There is, of course, the claim that the Referee either 'fixed' the match or was just simply blind/stupid/ignorant/Swiss, etc. There is another claim that the cause of everything (well, England losing anyway) is the pitch itself. It is seemingly in such poor condition - especially the penalty spot - that it caused Beckham to slip and then miss the goal.
Oh, really? I thought it just had to do with it being a GAME - or am I missing something here? It might actually have something to do with Portugal being the better team on the night as well, of course - especially as the match was really won by the Portuguese goal keeper, Ricardo, who saved the ball from Darius Vassell and then went on to kick the final penalty himself, scoring and winning the match for Portugal.
But wait, there's more. No sooner do England lose, than the violence and aggression that seems to have become so closely associated with English football rears it's ugly head again. There were reports that a "wave of disgraceful attacks" were taking place all over England against Portuguese owned or run businesses. How utterly reprehensible. The first ,reported incident was in sleepy Norfolk - in quiet rural Thetford in fact. Hardly the sort of place to envisage a racial attack taking place against fellow Europeans - people that have a very long association with English history - just because of a football match, is it? Well, this particular situation took place in a pub that is managed by a group of Portuguese businessmen, a pub in which the game had been seen by a group of Portuguese fans, including children, that numbered around 80. There were a further estimated 40 English supporters in the pub watching the match as well, so it wasn't a "Portuguese only" pub. It seems that a large group of disgruntled English supporters gathered outside the pub after the match and started shouting abuse and throwing bottles and anything else they could get their hands on at the pub. It required more than 50 police officers to restore order in this sleepy Norfolk town.
There were further reported scenes of violence in many small towns across England. As Heraldo Viegas, 29, one of the Portuguese businessmen who runs The Red Lion, said: "What is going on? It is only a football match. I cannot believe it. It's like a bad dream."