Dear Boris, You have the England’s football malaise wrong.

Our youthful Mayor of London has misidentified the major causes of England’s lack of football prowess.  Whilst one might concede that the lack of competitveness is a minor contributor to England’s failure to progress far at the World Cup, it is far from being the major one. We have some of the finest footballers in the world. Speaking to some German and Danish colleagues, they both thought our players far superior to theirs. Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard and Terry and others would feature in many a pundits European or World fantasy team. But England lacks a National Identity. Where is the English parliament, the English leader, the English Law, the English way and the English Language? We suffer from nationalist schizophrenia.

 It lacks players who see the World Cup as the pinancle of their careers. And with so many players actual playing in the English Premier League, the top in the world, many spend most of the year seeing their English team mates as rivals.

Yet it is the English spirit that is wrong for the game. We see out own faults and the advantages of others. We share our culture and are open to diversity. So the World Game of Football is Englis; the parlimentary system of the leading nations is English Liberal Democracy; in most countries fought between the English political philosphies of Liberalism, conservatism and moderate socialism; the langguage of the world is English, the system of law in many nations is based on English Common Law. Flipping to the other side of nationalist schizophrenia, we can say much of modern science is British, as is economics and many of the leading inventions.

So whilst we navel gaze on why we cannot win right to display a small trophy for four years, we forget that this small island determines the rules of the game in a much broader sense than Football.

(an Update of yesterday’s post)

England is too great to win the World Cup

I find it painful to watch England playing football. As a country they always underperform. Today was a prime example. We had world-class players making the mistakes of a championship side on freefall to relegation. Why is it that we have world class players doing worse than they would do for their own clubs?

Consider the following points.

  1. For many of the English players the game of today was not the game of their lives. For Rooney, Gerrard or Terry, that is the Champions League or a crucial game I winning the Premiership. These games are the culmination of the games played for their club, in the top domestic competition in the world. Playing for their country is a nice extra, but not the pinnacle of their careers. For most other countries, most of the players do not reach those heights in their domestic competitions. They have lesser competitions are home, or play in a foreign league. For them it is like playing in Division 1, and having a once-in-a-career opportunity to play for
  2. We suffer from nationalist schizophrenia. I consider myself British, vote for a British Parliament and hold a British Passport. England is a historical curiosity. For many like me, it is only in sport that we have the nation of England. But for the Scots and Welsh, it is something different.
  3. Parts of the British culture are support for the underdog, diversity and the culture of the generalist. The intense focussed competitiveness required to win is not there. Instead, we see the other point of view, and learn how to compromise. That is why we have not had a pitched battle on British soil for Culloden in 1746, and English soil since Bosworth Field in 1483 (excluding the odd friendly game of Rugby). Instead, the ability to see the other point of view gives us some of the greatest minds of all time. The British invented football (and a host of other sports), a host of peaceful ideologies and produced some of the greatest minds of all time.


English football is incapable of gaining the focus to win. We just bequeath the rules of the game, whether in sport, or politics. We also provide the language in which it is spoken. These are trophies far greater, more enduring than a 10 inch gold one to place on the mantelpiece for four years. Question is, what greater victories are there to come?


Update – On Boris Johnson’s take in the Telegraph here