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All Things Footie | Monday, October 11 | Jordan

Ashamed

If you want a reason why I can’t support England anymore—why when Frank Lampard and later David Beckham scored I didn’t even let out a modest ‘Yelp!’ of excitement—look no further than those England fans who first booed the Welsh National Anthem, and then couldn’t keep their big, stupid, flabby mouths shut for just sixty seconds while Ken Bigley was remembered. only a cynic would suggest that with the venue being in Manchester and with the late Mr Bigley being from the regional rival city of Liverpool, disrespect was to be expected. That said, and cynic that I am, I’m afraid to say that I do not think this was the case. I simply think it was typical behaviour of the kind of drum banging, two World-Wars and one World Cup singing, lager-fuelled moron that follows England—the kind that we are constantly told is the ‘minority spoiling it for good, honest fans’, but quite frankly I’m beginning to wonder. They’re one loud and numerous minority that’s for sure.

The game itself was largely dull (not nearly as entertaining as Ireland’s splendid 0-0 draw with France in Paris), illuminated by the odd moment of class from Rooney, but little else. It was a solid defensive showing, with Campbell as solid as ever, and both Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole impressing in particular. Ferdinand was calm and composed at the back, and while he did lose position a few times as he went a-wanderin’ (reminiscent of the excursions Sol Campbell used to embark on every now and then in his younger days), his distribution and composure under pressure made him look almost as good as many expected when he was a promising young defender under Harry Redknapp at West Ham. Ashley Cole handled a relentlessly lively Craig Bellamy well for the entire game, not giving the Newcastle forward an inch of space and ensuring that not once did he get past him. This maturity on the back of his outstanding string of performances in Euro 2004 confirms Cole as one of the World’s brightest full backs, and the fact that he is omitted from the FIFA World Player of the Year nominations while both Roberto Carlos and Cafu have their names in despite both having a less than impressive 12 months says more about the corrupt, cash-motivated, ego-caressing dung-heap that is the beautiful game’s supreme governing body than mere words could. God help us all.

Talking of the nominations, it’s a bit of a tricky year really, like last year. With Greece winning Euro 2004 and just about every major nation disappointing, and Porto winning the Champions League (while, similar to Euro 2004, all the ‘big’ clubs went out reasonably early), it’s not just a case of picking the best player from the best team. Looking at exploits at club level and all the qualities you’d ask for in a ‘player of the …’ award it’s between Ronaldinho, Andrej Shevchenko, Thierry Henry and Kakà as far as I’m concerned. All attacking players, yes, but that’s just the way these things swing isn’t it? No prizes for guessing where my vote would go, no-one can touch Thierry Henry at the moment, and couldn’t last year either (where he was robbed in the same award ceremony). No doubt it’ll end up going to one of the darlings though: Zidane, big fat Ronaldo, Figo, Carlos, Beckham, Owen.

How can Owen get nominated? Because Madrid signed him? How about Baros and Rooney? Who despite impressive Euro 2004’s had very poor league seasons. And Theo Zagorakis? Cristiano Ronaldo? Are you taking the proverbial FIFA? Oh you are! Sorry.

More rubbish Internationals in the week, this time England travel to the mighty Azerbaijan, whose biggest claim to fame is being the birthplace of the linesman who allowed Geoff Hurst’s goal in the 1966 World Cup Final (maybe this nugget of topical information will stop all the stupid ‘Russian linesman’ gags that John Motson is so fond of). I read a charming interview with the late Tofig Bakhramov’s son in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday; despite his father (who the Azeri national football stadium is named after) being a national hero he’s still living in his home country, unemployed and not exactly living a life of Luxury. I’m certain every Azerbaijani player appreciates the honour of playing for his country, and I doubt any of them (let alone the captain) will be deliberately picking up bookings to avoid the long trip to England.

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m secretly hoping for an Azeri win. I do love to support the underdog every now and then (particularly if it facilitates the ousting of Eriksson, whom I dislike more every day).

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