Belfast Telegraph

England in a league of its own in World Cup 2018 bid

By Terence Blacker

Dear Fifa Inspectors, Welcome to the home of football! In what must be the highlight of your trip around the world to decide which country should be appointed host for the 2018 World Cup, you have arrived in England for a tour of our football venues.

You have met Cleggy, the little substitute in Downing Street. You have been to a reception attended by some of the A-listers backing the English bid — Becks, Babs Windsor, Hugh Grant and Paul the Psychic Octopus. The nature of English league football has been explained to you by some of its leading local proponents: Drogba, Fabregas, Petrov and Ngog.

Naturally self-effacing, the English are reluctant to mention that this nation actually invented the game. In the Middle Ages, entire towns would wage football against one another, the winner being decided on a simple body count. The word “goal” is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon for “corpse”. We are a passionate race, gentlemen. Some might argue that now and then our enthusiasm for football has got out of hand, but mingle among the good-hearted fans of, say, Leeds, Millwall or Cardiff, engage them in light-hearted banter about rival teams, and the cheery partisanship of supporters will soon provide you with an unforgettable experience.

Yet our fans are at ease with foreigners, having realised that the fewer English players a team has, the more likely it is to win matches. In 2018, English fans watching foreigners playing against one another will find it entirely natural.

Supporters also know how to enjoy themselves. There is no dreary blowing of vuvuzelas. Anyone trying to start a Mexican wave is likely to get beaten up. Instead, a glorious musical tradition is celebrated with such classics as “F*** off, Spurs/ F*** off, Spurs/ F*** off, Spurs”, “Did the Ripper get your mum?” and “F*** all, you're gonna win f*** all.”

In the recent World Cup, Fifa discovered to its embarrassment that it is easier for a camera to see whether a ball crosses a line for a goal than it is for a middle-aged man, out of breath and standing in the wrong place. Gentlemen, no such problem will exist at the England 2018 World Cup. Such is the nation's obsession with reality television that the English only feel truly alive when they are on camera. When it comes to the surveillance of anyone or anything which may cross the line — man, woman or football — England now leads the world.

Talking of which, there is the question of off-the-pitch entertainment. Footballers visiting these islands can be assured of an exciting time wherever they are staying. Just as Lady Gaga has recently revealed she can reach sexual completion through thought alone, the same thing can be achieved by many English women with the help of the simple phrase ‘Premiership footballer’.

So close is the link between the beautiful games on and off the pitch that an innocent, middle-aged Swedish manager was caught up in a vortex of adultery, that England's most famous footballer is widely known as ‘Golden Balls’ and songs used about his intimate marital life were sung by football fans at matches. Gentlemen, English football is an extraordinary and unusual sporting feast. It's time to invite the rest of the world to enjoy it, too.

Belfast Telegraph

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