By Tony Attwood
A month or so ago the comedian Justin Moorhouse broadcast a few interesting thoughts on international football. I heard part of it while driving, and wished I had recorded it. Fortunately one of the newspapers obviously had their recorders running, and gave rundown of what he said:
“It’s probably going to upset some people but the thing I haven’t got the stomach for any more is the England football team. I’m just so bored with that dreary pantomime.
Every couple of years, people who don’t like football get into it. People who support rubbish teams get into it. It’s just boring. I don’t feel English – I feel European. I’m an international man. I don’t believe in borders and flags. I can’t stand England. I can’t stand the carnival. I can’t stand the anticipation. I can’t stand the flags everywhere. I can’t stand the disruption to my life. So the England football team.
Go and stick it right up your St George’s Park – and leave it there!”
The response to this in some quarters is that it is Uefa’s fault, in expanding the format of their little competition, so that the result of who goes through from the group is known from before the first game, unless one of the big team dramatically falls over. In short football waiting for prat falls. Not the best advert for the game.
Mind you some people turn up – home and away, although I suspect the away trips have more to do with being a booze up and an attempt to have lots of equivalents of stag nights than with being about the football.
Of course the FA like it because it means they have more chance to get people into Wembley and make a little more dent into the debt that burdens the Association. But I have never been sure that clearing the debt should be the driving force of football.
But I suspect there are worries – not least that the TV audience is in decline of a falling off the cliff variety. We had the headlines about more people watching a cookery show than the England games the time before last, and now the figures suggest that a programme about antiques and a hospital soap get bigger audiences. Arsenal live on TV in the FA Cup get more too.
So crowds up, TV audience and interest from fans who go to watch their clubs in the Premier League very much down. It is hard to sell a match in which a lot of people are just sitting there praying that their star players are not crippled.
But there is other trouble on the horizon. The Africa Nations Cup, which takes players from the top leagues during January every couple of years is in difficulty.
Now I know I have to take it easy here because I have been accused of racism by speaking against this programme of events in the past, even though I always put my club before country, whatever continent the country is on.
The story so far is that Morocco were supposed to host the 2015 ACN but refused arguing that with worries that with Ebola around the last thing you want is people coming from infected areas and massing together in crowds.
Now they have been thrown out of the competition as the organisers, CAF, try to find another host. I am probably hopelessly cynical in thinking that the possible loss of lots of money in cancelling the competition is at the heart of the matter, so we’ll leave that.
It was suggested that Egypt might want to have a bash, not least to restore some international credibility after 2013 was declared the worst year for tourism (the country’s second biggest earner) in modern times.
Tourism income is said to have dropped to half its value of six years before with 1% occupancy of hotels in Luxor following the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi. But as a propaganda weapon the citation that “terrorists don’t kill tourists” isn’t really a big pull, any more than the hope that Ebola doesn’t do football.
South Africa has said no, while Nigeria seems interested as are Gabon and Angola. So it might well go ahead, but as things stand we just don’t know.
England on the other hand are battling their way forwards, and the squad includes the likes of K Gibbs, C Chambers, J Wilshere, A Oxlade Chamberlain, T Walcott, and D Welbeck.
If they all played that would still not be a record – which is of seven Arsenal players in the England side all at once. On that occasion we also supplied the physio. And the ground.
Let’s hope the Scots don’t get too rough. And indeed the Slovenians. Mind you I rather liked Solvenia when I went there. And come to think of it, I’ve always enjoyed my time in Scotland too
For one the international delay doesn’t really affect me as I am still in Australia with my daughter, aiming to travel back across the globe just before the Man U game, and then hopefully awake enough to make it to the match. Indeed I choose this 3 week period of leave of absence because of the international break. See it does have its uses..
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