There’s this age old notion that football started in England, that’s probably why you must have heard the phrase “Wembley the home of football”. While I’m not here to talk about the origin of football or put out facts to support that football didn’t start in England, it is very important to remember this notion because it will form the basis of this piece.
Back in the day, England was a strong footballing nation and even won the 1966 World Cup. Given that they contributed greatly to the domination of the sports among others (something the US has failed to do with Basketball), we must give them credit. But lately, England has gone off the international radar almost completely. I can’t remember the last time they put out a good showing at a major tournament not even Euro ’96 as some of the purists will point out. They’ve been to major tournaments ever since and they keep faltering. Funny thing is, they have good players, they’ve never lacked players so what must be the problem?
England is a nation whose roots are deeply engraved on the tablets of history. They cherish their heritage, so when a kid is growing up he is constantly reminded of how lucky he is to have been born into this great nation. So at a young age, a boy is being told how this great nation started football, how this great nation was so dominant in football back then and how it lies in his hands to restore that lost glory.
So, rather than allow that young kid to grow up and determine what he wants to do, he is been put in a football academy and forced to learn the game of football. Have you noticed how most English athletes that do well in other sports tried out football at some point in their lives? Let’s take Ashley Young for example, with the kind of propensity he has shown for diving, little wonder what he could have achieved if he had settled for a career in diving just like Tom Daley. Paul Gascoigne may have been one of the world’s best rugby players, Ferdinand may have settled for basketball, Walcott could have become a 4-time Olympic sprint champion by now and Rooney a boxing champion. But we can’t ascertain any of these because all of them were forced to play football.
England is a nation that teaches you how to play football, that’s the difference between England’s academy and Germany and Spain’s academy. In these other countries, kids with exceptional footballing talents are discovered and trained, in less developed countries, kids are discovered on the streets. How many England players were discovered on the streets? How many of them? Zero. Little wonder there is so much hype once they discover a naturally talented football player like Jack Wilshere. You don’t need any seer to tell you Wilshere was naturally born with footballing roots.
Why can’t England mellow down their obsession with the beautiful game and allow youngsters show the world what they really want to do and can achieve. Building ultramodern sport facilities won’t help if the players are not naturally inclined towards them. In the long run, players will tire. Rooney’s explosive appearance on to the scene didn’t last long, these days we get to see the real Rooney week in, week out and he really can’t prove his mettle against the names that be in world football. Training can take you thus far, but will it keep you?
If they don’t get this right, they will keep struggling and struggling and will never ever reach the heights of 1966.
God save the Queen…of England’s football.