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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

England will probably never be a world football power

By The Coach and 1970’s Gooner

Why is it that England has not excelled in the international arena since the 1966 World Cup which was held on home soil?

After this famous victory, the fortunes of England have followed mostly a downward direction.

For the next forty years the maximum the national team has achieved is to reach the semi finals of a major competition only three times:

the 1968 European Nations Cup (as it was called then), the World Cup in 1990 and six years after that, in 1996, in the European Championships, which were held in England.

Since then and in between the England national team has failed to progress beyond the quarter finals of any international tournament.

Why is this so?

The simple answer is of course that there have not been enough world class football players in England.

In our opinion the reason for this lies on the emphasis placed by society on several character related attributes, which in the end help to stifle any skills that a young player may possess.

These attributes, admirable as they are, concentrate more on the traditional English values of commitment, work ethos, effort and physical and mental strength.

All very important and very necessary elements in what makes a world class player.

But alas not sufficient.

By overemphasizing their importance, the most significant attribute that a footballer needs to succeed is ignored, or rather obstructed in its development: football skills.

All these character related attributes inevitably manifest themselves in all aspects of the English game.

In the way the players themselves play the game.

In the way English coaches encourage their players to conduct themselves on the pitch and in their choice of strategies and tactics for the games.

And in the way the referees interpret the laws

Part I was titled “Footballers lack flair and those that have it sacrifice it to conform”

Part II was titled: English coaches encourage the physical approach and adopt defensive tactics

This is the third article in a four part series where we look at each of the above in turn (the fourth part is the conclusion).

Part III:Referees help destroy the game

A lot of referees in England have probably never played football at a reasonable level, certainly not they way it’s meant to be played, or indeed were never good at it otherwise they would have never become referees!

They have certainly made attempts to adapt their approach to the interpretation of the rules; but we think not enough.

They still apply the rules in a manner that encourages the use of physical play.

This physical play usually takes the form of hard, vicious and dangerously sliding tackles.

They usually take both the ball and player; there is also a lot of pushing and pulling and “in your face marking” so as to intimidate rather than create.

These are a few of the examples that readily come to mind. Yet referees are loath to punish them as they are all considered part of the game. Yes, they are part of the English game. But not so much in those countries where they play the beautiful game.

This approach by the referees is taken advantage by a lot of teams as a means of stopping the more creative sides and elegant players from unfolding their skills on the field.

Also the so called football commentators use accepted slogans such as “football is a man’s game”, “it is shoulder to shoulder”, “good physical presence” and “use of upper body strength”.

These are just some of the clichés we hear almost every day.

Another one we hear very often, especially when they are commentating on games involving English teams abroad where there are foreign officials, is “that was never a foul”.

But as explained in our introduction this is the mentality that pervades throughout the football world in this country.

It is embedded in the psyche of the nation. You would not expect the referees to be any different.

They are however the most important of them all. More important than the players and the football coaches that we touched upon in this series of articles.

This is because their interpretation and enforcement of the rules sends THE most important signals to the participants whereby everyone adjusts their behaviour accordingly.


“Footballers lack flair and those that have it sacrifice it to conform”

English coaches encourage the physical approach and adopt defensive tactics

Gilberto’s international call up may leave a huge gap in Arsenal’s defence to face Spurs

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