International Boredom; Lackluster Qualification Sends England’s Supporters Home Still Seething

onenil.gifWith great reluctance, England fans celebrated their 0-0 draw with Turkey, marking their automatic qualification into the UEFA Euro 2004 competition. I say reluctant because after losing two Leeds fans to hooligan violence at the hands of Galatasaray’s “Stay Up All Night” gang in 2000, England supporters wished for a more decidedly lethal result, ending a rivalry that has left a bitter taste in the mouths of England’s more passionate fans.

That’s not to say that the fans wanted to see on-pitch violence, or an eruption between rival supporters where white and red clashed in bloody battle. What they seemed to want more was a punishing defeat. One that sent the Turkish fans home in misery, cursing the English scoring machine, that unstoppable mechanism all fans believe lies dormant at the heart of their team, surfacing when only the right motivation sparks their hidden talent. The problem was, that the English scoring machine was nowhere to be found.

Beckham’s free kick in the 36th minute could have put the national side ahead, but as Beckham lost his footing while striking the ball, sending it into the stratosphere, Turkish fans sighed relief. This would not be a dominant English side. It would be a game where equal footing for either team would be hard to come by.

International rivalries are something new to the casual American sports fan. There are no real rivalries to speak of in the big three sports (NBA, NFL and MLB), unless you want to want to find some tentative link between Toronto Blue Jays’ fans and some other equally boring baseball team in the U.S.

Our only significant rivalry internationally seems to be the Mexican National Team where we have traded blows game after game for decades, usually on the losing side. That tide has turned however after the 2002 World Cup where a 2-0 underdog victory sent the Mexicans home in disgrace and sent American fans, well, home.

We don’t play up international rivalries here in the U.S. during some of the international competitions we participate in, whether it is the Olympics or international soccer, like the World Cup or the CONCACAF tournament. Maybe it’s because we have a dominant superpower on our side politically, namely Bush’s government, who seems to piss everyone off. We don’t have to school Libya, Iran or Iraq in international competition because we can do it on the political stage or in their very countries. Like AC Roma and Juventus fans, our battles become political, but our field of play becomes the country we dislike rather than their soccer pitch.

This is not to say that the problems in Iraq could or would have been solved on a footie ground had we the opportunity, but it would have been nice. Iraq doen’t have much of a soccer team, mostly because Saddam tortued them when they lost and shamed them when they produced unwanted resluts. We could have taken Iraq on the field, though the hooligans (if we have any) would have probably lost because we don’t like to use suicide bombers or fully automatic weapons historically.

Of course, their isn’t much between Turkey and England politically at the moment and the battles between rival supporters are mainly about showing your colors and true off the pitch strength rather than some disagreement between the Labour party and Turkey’s passive/aggressive government.
For anyone who enjoys the game, the beautiful game, a chance to settle our differences on the pitch might prove an exciting prospect, but when it comes to the truth of the matter, we seem to like our big stick, rather than a soccer ball.

6 replies on “International Boredom; Lackluster Qualification Sends England’s Supporters Home Still Seething”

  1. what about when Iran beat the USA in WC98? that was played up by the media as a rivalry (even though there was no soccer history between the 2 countries).. even people who dont care about futbol got upset – my mom almost passed out.

  2. i hate violence in the stands.. when i saw what that guy did to the foul ball, i wanted someone to kill him.. yesterday morning i thought about how irrational i was and now i feel shame..

    at any rate – i cant believe im saying it, but mexico’s FIFA ranking is just nonsense.. are they ranked 5 right now? no way! and uruguay is a prenial powerhouse.. they have a lot of guys playing in the mexican league.

  3. Geoff, that’s not true at all, you don’t know baseball fans. That guy is the scapegoat for the next hundred years of Cubs suckdom. Cubs fans will talk about that guy for the next century, he will be brought up on every Cubs radio and television broadcast for the rest of time, be on every sports blooper show, and every baseball documentary. If there’ s one thing that sports fans, and especially baseball fans can’t admit, it’s that their team lost fair and square (or has been losing fair and square for ages). We’ll hear about the stupid “Bartman Curse” ad nauseam**for the rest of our lives, just like the “Hand of God” or “Bambino’s Curse.”

  4. I have a feeling that you’re right about the Cubs’ fans blaming the guy for life, but correct me if I’m wrong, wasn’t it the Cubs shortstop who miffed an easy double play ball just a play or two after? Are they calling that play the next curse? Probably not. They just sucked that inning, a curse not withstanding.
    Now, if there was an evil raven that landed on Alou in that inning and told him that the Cubs would lose forever,and that no matter how hard they tried they could never break his evel curse, I would start considering the possibility that they are cursed. Though, I couldn’t really imagine that happening, but I think Cubs fans have entertained similar notions. A billy goat maybe? Everyone knows they aren’t evil enough…
    Geoff

  5. Sticking up for baseball fans (as I used to be one), I’d say you need to talk to real fans, not the fair weather ass clowns that start bleating as soon as they see a tv camera. Everyone I’ve talked to, including my mom, and she’s hardcore, says that if the Marlins could beat the Cubs three straight at Wrigley, they deserve to go the the Series. Just because the media is playing up that curse nonsense doesn’t mean real fans buy it.

  6. I guess the fact that that doesn’t seen to have been brought up in any recent developments proves my point, though I know that what you are saying is a bit tounge in cheek…
    The U.S. media seems to be more interested with a quick story rather than with something tangable. Look at what’s happening to that poor Cubs fan who went for the ball Alou could have caught in the 8th inning in game 6. The Sun-Times ran a whole story on him today in the paper following the game 7 loss. As soon as he’s not relevant, he won’t be interesting and no longer a story, even though he was never one in the first place.
    I think I lost track of what I was trying to say…
    Your mom should have passed out when she heard that Uruguay beat Mexico 2-0 at Soldier Field Wednesday. I almost did.
    Geoff

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