Guest Column: Saifedean Ammous may be a passionate England football fan, but he’s glad they were dumped out of Euro 2008 qualifying by Croatia last Wednesday. Here’s why
Why I’m Happy England Failed to Qualify for Euro 2008
By Saifedean Ammous
So it’s finally official: England will not be playing in Euro 2008. After a long, drawn-out qualification soap opera with all the trademark drabness you would expect only from England, Steve McClaren’s sorry troopers will spend the summer shopping, lazing about, and making complete fools of themselves all over the world, instead of shopping, lazing about, and making complete fools of themselves in Austria and Switzerland. I couldn’t be happier.
Let me clarify first, that I am indeed an England fan—one who flew half-way around the world to watch them lose to Portugal in Germany last year. I still support England, and will continue to support them. Yet, it is exactly because I am an England fan that I was cheering for Croatia as if my own sons were playing for them — for no one suffers more than an England fan from the presence of England in a major tournament.
Just imagine how beautiful the European Championships will be without the traditional biennial extravaganza of Team England at an international tournament: The thousand reports about Owen’s tweaked hamstrings and his “steely-eyed determination” to be fit and “give it all I got”. The unnerving ‘BREAKING NEWS’ alerts about the latest scan on Rooney’s inevitable broken metatarsal. The sickening debate about Beckham’s latest haircut, whether it “sets a bad example for our youth” and whether it “will affect his vision on the field”. The eternal arguments about whether Crouch is actually a decent player, or just a decent player for someone his size. The insufferable arguments about which of England’s useless keepers is the least useless, and the endless recriminations as the chosen one commits a shocking blunder to send England out.
At last we’ll be spared McClaren’s stomach-turning voice droning “I have every confidence in my players,” and the mantra of “we know that on our day we can beat anyone” being chanted by every last one of England’s spoiled brats. Or Frank Lampard taking to the field with all the condescending air of the Brentwood-educated Tory he is; and his smug sense of entitlement as he waits for his opponents to lay down and die so he can win and lift the trophy, since, of course, it is his “destiny”.
No more will we endure the will-they-won’t-they Lampard-Gerrard saga where millions tune-in to see whether the most famous showbiz couple since Ross and Rachel will finally make their on-off-on-again-off-again relationship work in the center of England’s midfield; nor will we have to bear the not-too-subtle homoerotic hints at male-insecurity when pundits analyze how they will react when McClaren contemplates replacing one of them with Gareth Barry.
We will hear no more raving about John Terry’s “brave heart”, “character” and “leadership” every time he so much as comes near a ball, nor will we suffer the painful florescent radiance emanating from McClaren’s beak every time the camera pans onto him sitting on the bench, while he puts on his trademark brave face to pretend he’s not worried about being 1-0 down to Austria in the 76th minute, and that it is all part of a grand masterplan he’s been hatching since 2002.
We will not suffer through the endless global coverage of England fans’ travails in the Alpine mountains as they drink Central Europe dry while the media waits to find one of them disputing their bill with their waiter before leading with headlines of “Hooligan Apocalypse” and eliciting the mandatory Sepp Blatter brain-fart about how English football has a disease of hooliganism that will only be eradicated when all British men are put through concentration camps to teach them sportsmanship, and British women are made to wear skimpy shorts.
But most importantly, all the world’s watching eyes have been spared the painful 270 minutes of miscued passes, shanked clearances, row-Z “shots”, tired defending, and disjointed midfield that have made this England team play with all the organization of blindfolded drunken epileptics on a cruel Japanese TV game-show and all the excitement of a catatonic, drugged out Amish 90-year-old; to be followed by 120 minutes of embarrassing ineptitude before the inevitable elimination in the second round to Portugal on penalties.
Finally, I will be able to enjoy a football tournament without having to endure any of this bollocks. I will watch a beautiful contest where all teams play with the excitement and enthusiasm that everyone in the world but England shows. I will enjoy watching the exciting new crop of French teenagers, Dutch wingers, Spanish midfielders and Italian defenders, with the comfort of emotional detachment and the pleasure of having nothing at stake. I can look forward to watching the Czechs dazzle the world with their talents and organization; the Poles surprise everyone under the wily Leo Beenhakker; the Swiss attempt to pull a big surprise on their own soil; and Guus Hiddink attempt to work another miracle with the Russians. Screamers will be scored, stars will be born, reputations will be destroyed, great memories will be made and classic matches will go into football folklore. And all without a single WAG within a Frank Lampard shot-range.