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Tuesday, 25 May 2010

...We're England 'til July!

Now Leeds United are safely in The 'NPower' Championship for next season, focus can turn to this Summer's footballing spectacle in South Africa.

In less than 3 weeks time, the attention of the entire world will be focused upon Soccer City, Johannesburg. As hosts South Africa, kick-off the opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup against Mexico. An estimated 300 million people will watch this years footballing extravaganza, with only remote tribes in The Amazon and 46 states in The USA oblivious to proceedings.
As anticipation builds around the world, and indeed in England. I have to confess to being a little apathetic to the whole thing. For my sporting miracle came to pass 2 weeks ago at Elland Road, Leeds. Don't get me wrong, I'm  looking forward to watching the world's best footballers battle it out on the grandest of stages and will be cheering England on as much as everybody else, but their inevitable exit at the quarter final stages won't see me subscribe to the 'national heartbreak' that engulfs our shores on such occasions.

My biggest grumble with 'World Cup fever' is that every man and his dog instantly becomes an expert on football, acquiring enough footballing knowledge to rival Jose Mourinho in just a few short weeks of watching Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer discuss England's weak defence. Unfortunately such events attract and cater for the worst type of football fans, you know the ones; You can usually find them crossing supermarket carparks Dressed in an England shirt, flag, hat etc. 2 crates of Carlsberg and barbecue cuisine in the trolley, ready to load into their St George flag clad car. This is an important time for the England 'super fan'. During the actual football season they spend most Saturday's shopping with the wife, content in the knowledge that wearing their Manchester United/Chelsea shirt in John Lewis informs everyone as to where there allegiances lie - they'll check the score when they get home.

If all that wasn't bad enough even women morph into Andy Gray when it comes to post-match analysis. Now before I get accused of sexism, I'm not referring to the many ladies that attend football on a regular basis, you're a credit to your respective clubs and I hope my young daughter joins the masses of female support inside football grounds in the future. I refer to the droves of footballing widows up and down the country, abandoned at weekends form August 'til May whilst their partners go and see their 'first love'. Suddenly these women 'want in'. Even Mrs Dirty Leeds, who has spent the entire duration of our relationship shunning everything football or football related, even football on the radio gives her a 'headache'. She has spent majority of 2010 changing the words of "Leeds are goin' up" to "Leeds are stayin' down, stayin' down, Daddy's gonna' cry!" to amuse my daughter. Suddenly she wants to watch England...!

I'm all for community spirit and togetherness, its a rarity in this country and something that should be resurrected as a priority. However, its only a matter of time over these coming weeks of footballing exhibitionism, before one of these ill-informed, band-waggoners utter the dreaded words that strike pain in the heart of any passionate football fan. "...It's only a game". Its at that point, one realises that football isn't designed for such carnival surroundings. The American-style, Superbowl Sunday party atmosphere is an alien environment to such a primitive, tribal passtime that regularly reduces grown adults to a shadow of their usually civilised and sensible, weekday selves.

It is with this in mind that I will enjoy The World Cup for what it is, a magnificent celebration of football, performed by the talented elite of their generation. Whilst I'm fully behind England and wish them all the best, deep down my footballing world is already complete for 2010,Leeds United will be playing at a higher level next season... anything England achieve will be a bonus.

I'm very much England 'til July!

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