May 31st, 2010
|08:30 am - World Cup: yes we can|
At work we were talking about what effect it would have on politics if England won the World Cup. Would it be good for the Tories' popularity? My colleague is half German, and he was laughing and saying every four years the German press run articles by their London correspondents about this phenomenon: the English think without any reason that they are going to win. They talk as if it's a likely event.
We laughed, agreed it was ridiculous, and then I was saying that even if we did win, it might emphasise feelings of solidarity and community, mutual assistance, rather than boosting conservative feeling, and people were saying I was over-optimistic. After a few moments I realised we had heard his comment, and yet we were still doing it. We were still talking as if winning the World Cup were the most likely outcome, and all that was up for discussion was what impact this would have on our national life. Madness.
For any country, for the best football team in the world, the chances of winning the world cup must be touch and go. So many things will go wrong. And yet every four years (and I am by no means atypical) I deliberately commit myself emotionally to this utterly quixotic and doomed enterprise. I do not regret it.
the impossible all the other teams have been eliminated, the one which remains - however improbable - will win the World Cup
A very sensible proposal, but alas I am not sensible :-/
Maybe 20 years ago, Scotland fans actually had a similar thing going. Every damned world cup, we felt we had a good chance of getting to the knockout phase, and after that, who knows? And every damned time we got dumped unceremoniously out of the group phase.
I think people are more realistic now—it's hard to still fancy your chances when the team doesn't even qualify—but that may be a false impression because I've lived away for so long.
Hmm, occurs to me that there's a similarity: we all expect our team to get one stage further than can realistically be hoped. When Scotland were doing well just to qualify, we all assumed they'd be at least second in their group. Had that ever happened, I reckon people would have been satisfied; there'd be no complaints if we then got knocked out.
When England are bubbling under as a second-tier national team—is that fair?—we all assume they have a genuine shot at winning the whole thing.
Doesn't sound too ridiculous when you put it like that. One stage further, that's all we're asking.
Wikipedia entry, clearly written by a Scot:
Scotland have qualified for the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Football Championship several times, but have never progressed beyond the first stage of a tournament. The team have achieved some noteworthy results, however, such as beating the 1966 FIFA World Cup winners England 3–2 at Wembley Stadium in 1967.
Our crowning achievement.
I remember how optimistic everyone in the UK was about Scotland in Argentina in ... god was it really 1978.
"We are Ally's tartan army
We're going to the Argentine
We'll really shake them up
When we win the World Cup
Cos Scotland are the greatest football team"
They did have some good moments in that one.
I think we could get to the semis and that's a pretty respectable position. But in my heart I also think we can win.
We still (some of us) buy tickets for lotteries, having looked first at the prizes - whether it's worth entering just for xyz prize, what we could do with abc prize, or whether it's 'a rollover'.
I think, given a decent team, and the way that improbable things can happen, it's easy to understand that so many of us follow the tournament with such hope and commitment.
I just hope that, if the more probable happens, and we don't win, it won't be in such a way as to bring universal opprobrium down on the team or some of its members.
Well, that's a fair comment, and I hope so too. I think a few people bear a grudge (like to David Beckham that time) but mostly I think there's sympathy for the people who make critical mistakes (like my favourite, Stuart Pearce, I think people realised how broken up he was).
Yes, Beckham was in my mind, too. Your talk of 1978 also made me think of Willie Donachie's own goal (though I think that was earlier in the year than the ill-fated World Cup bid?), and the comments I remember about him. But that's a good point - I guess it depends on exactly what happens. (Poor Stuart Pearce!)
I won't be following very closely, so I have the luxury of some detachment, but mainly, I hope that it's going to be fun, for both the team and supporters. Winning would be nice, too, but I hope it's fun along the way.