Your humble scribe is feeling a little jaded today after staying up late to watch England play Germany. I wish I hadn’t bothered. What an absolute farce. As I watched our team taken apart with skill and precision by Germany, I came to ponder just how much England’s performance – both on and off the pitch – has come to reflect the spirit of the age. What I’m talking about is the last 13 year’s national obsession with appearance in preference to substance; to spin over actual performance. As a country we seem to have become used to paying over the top for fourth-rate goods and services. From extortionate train tickets prices, rip-off taxation, useless call centres, appalling customer service, mindless bureaucracy – the poor British public has been forced to accept plummeting standards, while all the time choking on the endless bullshit spouting from cheesy-grinning government ministers and over-chummy corporate talking heads telling us how great everything is. We’ve got used to hearing what good value we are getting, how much better life is now and how they are worth every penny they’re ripping out of our poor little hands. There can be no greater example of this than our pampered, overpaid, arrogant, ignorant and ultimately useless national team.
Two things really bought this home to me: The first was Rooney’s outburst after the last England match where he complained about being booed by the England fans. The arrogance was extraordinary: Ignoring the fact that the performance was a disgrace, Rooney seemed unable to appreciate that not everyone in the country earns £90,000 a week. The trip to South Africa was clearly a major expense for the majority of England fans that came to cheer the side on. They had every right to feel disgruntled over being served-up such a lack-lustre performance. But not, it seems, to express their dismay.
The second incident was when your humble scribe ventured forth to purchase a Japan shirt in advance of Tuesday’s match against Paraguay. The local sports shop has a fine selection of kit from every team in the contest. Having bagged my Samurai Blue shirt, I thought I’d take a look at the new England strip. Much as I love my trusty 2004 away shirt and 2005 home shirt, it’s always nice to have the latest kit. But on closer inspection, I decided I wouldn’t bother.
The England away shirt looked like something out of Primark’s bargain bin: A cheap cotton T-shirt with a amateur-looking Three Lions badge stuck on the front. Absolute rubbish. That was bad enough, but when I saw the price I nearly fainted: 14,000 Yen (that’s about “£100) for a shirt that looked like it cost about a pound to make. I compared it against all the other country strips there: Every other country – including Japan – was 10,000 Yen (£70) or under. Plus the fact, they looked like quality shirts… hi-tech fabric, embroidered badges etc. not like something straight out of a backstreet Malaysian sweatshop.
Then of course we have to endure the tired old clichés being trotted out again: World Cup 1966, the Blitz, Spitfires over the White Cliffs ad nauseam. I am as proud of my country as anyone, but I wish we could move on from past glories. From the outside, it looks so utterly childish and moronic to still be trying to taunt the Germans about the war or clinging onto events of 40 years ago as evidence of our continuing greatness as a world power. Germany’s well-deserved victory has really exposed the gap between belief and reality. It seems to me that the sooner we stop deluding ourselves, the sooner we start booing those that fail to deliver what they’re paid vast sums of money for; the sooner we reject being sold worthless shit for insane prices, the sooner we can actually start back down the road to having a team – and a country – we can be proud of.