The World Cup is here! And on cue – everyone goes mad. Last night millions of people watched the host nation, Brazil, defeat Croatia 3-1 after a contentious penalty decision tipped the balance in the favour of the “Samba Boys”.
It was quite an inauspicious start, considering the domestic unrest at the opulence that is, for many, ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’ and it does invite some quite harsh comparisons when the millionaire footballers from the world’s top leagues come to town. Many argue that much of the millions Brazil has invested to host the event will never be seen again – one example of which is a stadium costing millions being built in such a remote area of Brazil that it is almost inaccessible by car and when the circus leaves town – any local football clubs will be far too small to benefit from a stadium built for the world stage.
Someone told me that the England players’ hotel is not 5-star luxury and it directly overlooks some of Brazil’s most deprived areas. Whilst I don’t know how true this actually is, my immediate reaction was “Good! It will do them no harm at all to realise the position of privilege they are in and that they have a duty to grasp this amazing opportunity with both hands and give it 100%. ” Whatever the outcome for England at the World Cup – I will be happy if the players all play with obvious pride and show what it means to them to wear the shirt. I know that when Frank Lampard’s goal against Germany was disallowed that it knocked the stuffing out of the players initially – but the way in which they continued to crumble further and further, minute-by-minute, left a sadness in my heart that has not yet been lifted by any subsequent England performance.
This year, partially because of what happened against Germany, expectations are pretty low. So if England do well – we will all start immediately expecting too much again – fuelled by some of the nonsense hyperbolic journalism that is so prevalent in the British press. There is some good stuff out there, don’t get me wrong, but there is a great deal that lacks balance. Only the extremely good or the extremely bad seem newsworthy, so if something is even slightly good it gets exalted to epic proportions and if someone makes a mistake, a simple human error, they immediately become public enemy number 1.
Already there has been talk about not putting too much pressure on the likes of Ross Barkley and how refreshing has he and others like Oxlade-Chamberlain looked? I wonder how much is down to a lack of fear? When Rooney burst on the scene he was a young lad without a shred of doubt in his heart. He knew what to do – win the ball and score with it. It was that simple. His move to Manchester United made him a much better team player as they coached that single, selfish instinct out of him and made him aware of other players around him. At an arguably ‘bigger club’ media-wise, the breathtaking audacity the youngster showed at Everton started to dry up. Now, the wrong side of media stories about his weight his hair and his love-life, people are now questioning whether or not Rooney should be dropped from the team.
I feel that there is a great crop of young English players coming through at the moment, but I fear that unless we let them know that we don’t mind them making mistakes, we don’t mind them trying something new, we don’t mind them taking a chance, we don’t mind them being selfish – we won’t ever see the best of their natural talent. It will be stifled by media outcry at the first own goal/missed chance/sending off.
David Beckham showed the world what character he had to come back from the press vilification he suffered after he kicked out at Diego Simeone. It was a long way back, but he did it – and in some ways he was stronger for the experience – but we should be asking ourselves did he really deserve to be publicly hated and humiliated for what he did? He is one player who I always felt gave his best for England and tried his heart out even on days where it didn’t come off for him. We need the players to show heart if they are to achieve anything in Brazil, and that starts with the support of a nation. It starts with the people they are playing for. It starts with me and you.