European Cup v Politics. No Winners

Christopher Lee - photo

Christopher Lee

Stade Felix Bollaert-Delelis, Lens

14 June 2016

Wales will beat England  2-1 against tomorrow.  Reason? England cannot score goals but with two obvious exceptions, they have better players. Second version: Wales will win 1-0 (Penalty).  Third version: hooligans will get match cancelled.

Whatsoever the result, England will lose because no one likes the English football team – not even the English because they (the team) have a nasty rich image as people. Paid too much.  Never win much when it matters. We are saying that the only nice England players are the former England players.

We are saying also that Prime Minister David Cameron needs by 23 June England FC to be winning this Europe thing and on their way to the 10 July  final because if they do then the national feel good factor will work for him and people will vote Stay.

We are saying also that Boris, Gove Darling et al need England to be winning this Europe thing by 23 June and on their way to the 10 July final because the national feel good factor will mean the union flag is worn with pride and the people will vote Bye Bye.

We are saying that support can turn elections because a national success turns a result by creating a sense of national ecstasy when a trophy is brought home and a below surface glumness when footballers fail.

The British politicians have always made sporting links to whatever game they play at Westminster and now further afield. The post-war Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee installed a teletext system when he arrived in Downing Street in 1945, not to monitor world events but the latest scores in Victory Test matches between an Australian services eleven and England between May and August 1945.  More modern prime ministers made sure minor decorations were handed out when cricket and rugby teams won international series and bicyclists dot not fall off.

More dramatically, Saddam Hussein’s son Uday had  the Iraqi team tortured when they lost in the Asian Cup in 200o. In 2014 North Korean’s soccer team was arrested and threatened with execution after losing to South Korea. Losing meant the North Korean people – especially the leader – were shamed. If they had won North Korea would have been proved triumphant politically and ideology.

The conclusion is that only sport creates the sense of pride and unity – or destroys it – for a nation state in tender times. From British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, to Tory and Liberal leaders David Cameron and Nick Clegg, to French Presidents Mitterrand, Chirac and even Sarkozy all have invoked the names and spirits of their national sporting sides at the height of bi-lateral relations knowing sporting arena results could not be signs of how international politics would fall.

Could be that is why the American always play among themselves for the World Series events, not taking chances of losing against political as well as sporting rivals.

But the other truth is that the sporting effect (other than America’s) does not survive. A Test Match win followed inside three weeks with MBEs all round and flesh-pressing at Downing Street is followed by a whitewashing in Australia and muttering from the Downing Street PR, what was that all about – apart from when John Major was Prime Minister

The true result has to be quickly taken. In 1970 England failed to qualify for the World Cup four days before Labour (who had basked in England’s 1966 success – four months after Moore’s side won the Jules Rimet) was beaten at the general election.

The political victor, Ted Heath, was glad England had lost because he was told it would make the British people fed up with government.  Heath won.  The Labour minister of sport Denis Howell,  declared on the Sunday of defeat “Everything began to go wrong for Labour for the following Thursday.” Wilson blamed the “disgruntled Match of the Day Millions.”

Could it be that if England look bad in the Qualifications, then Cameron will lose the Stay vote?  Or could another day of disgruntlement work for Boris against those “bloody Europeans”?

Feel the pulse in the only thing that really means much to the English nowadays.  The Beautiful Game. It does not really matter if Wales wins or loses.  They will always be gallant fighters.  The English? No one, other than 25,000 fans, cares a toss. Or is that so? The political strategists who believe Howell and Wilson were right?

As a permanent secretary in Whitehall remarked this week. “We have the Referendum, talks on Syria, the NATO summit the week up to the July the Europeans final, talks with Putin’s lot and a shouting match in the EU about an EU Army, which we do not want. If we should win, we go to all these things as champions.’

The thought of Cameron in a white and three lions T-shirt in Vienna Geneva and Warsaw is something to contemplate. All is to play for.  All could easily slip from grasp. After 1-1 with Russia last weekend, anything is possible when own goals decide the political as well as sporting results.

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