Why I kind of hate the World Cup

Anyone who knows me will tell you of my sheer passion for football. I’ve been a season ticket holder at Aston Villa for 19 years now, and I can’t ever envisage being without it.

And yet, as the biggest feast of football on earth gets underway, you must forgive me if I feel underwhelmed. The simplest way I can sum it up is it’s akin to somebody who spends their life watching proper bands at small gig venues before finding themselves at a Take That concert at Wembley Stadium – everyone loves them, and you kind of have to admit that they are quite good, but somehow it just doesn’t seem ‘proper’.

So, what are the reasons for feeling like this?

It’s supporting a team containing wastes of oxygen like Ashley Cole and John Terry and money grabbing liars like Gareth Barry, led by a cheating thug like Steven Gerrard (football’s own OJ Simpson).

It’s the jingostic hype, generated mainly by people who don’t even follow the game – where patriotism becomes racism.

It’s the stupid songs in the pub. “There were 12 German Bombers in the air…” / “Two World Wars and one World Cup…” / “No surrender to the IRA…” – SHUT. UP. YOU. EMBARRASSMENTS.

It’s the fact that people somehow believe we have a God-given right to win the damn thing.

It’s crap songs like James Corden and Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Shout’ perpetuating popular culture’s myth of what football fans are actually like. (Genuine true fact: In 20 years of going to football, I have NEVER heard the chant ‘Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’ – it exists only in bandwagoning pop music)

It’s the fact that I kind of want to see James Milner do badly in order to give Villa a better chance of keeping him.

It’s the fact that when we do go out, somebody is going to have their lives made a misery by The Sun newspaper. It may be an England player, maybe one of the opposition. In recent years, it seems mainly to have been referees. But somebody will face the witchhunt.

Aside from England for a moment, it’s the fact France are in the World Cup and Ireland aren’t.

It’s seeing people who usually have no interest in the game suddenly deciding they’re experts on its finer points. Cue the regurgitation of statistics they memorised from that morning’s paper.

It’s the fact that, if England do win a big game, it’s all backslapping and everyone’s happy. Part of the fun is the bragging rights, the feeling that, when you do succeed, it’s special just to you and yours and not to everyone. International Football lacks the feelings of pride and envy that club football heralds. Euro 2008 was brilliant because England weren’t there, everyone supported different teams, and we got to enjoy some of that division based rivalry these tournaments usually lack.

It’s the fact the hype will get worse if England somehow do win the bloody thing…

More than anything, it’s the fact that given the choice between England winning the World Cup, or Villa winning away at Wigan on a cold Tuesday night in February, I’d pick the Villa every single time.

And yet, I’ve bought my England shirts, I’ll be going in to town to watch the match later, and I reserve the right to be a complete hypocrite when I inevitably get swept away in it all.

All I want is for us to show a little dignity… is that too much to ask?

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Liar liar…

Following last week’s blog, in which I asserted that the hysteria regarding the supposed banning of England shirts was nothing more than the invention of an uneducated and racist online collective, I was troubled to see the appearance of this story, courtesy of the good old bad old Daily Mail. To save you having to click the link, here’s the jist of it:

“A toddler was ordered off a bus because the foreign driver was ‘offended’ by his England football T-shirt, his mother has claimed.

Sam Fardon, 27, was allegedly told to get off the service with her sons Dylan, two, and 10-week-old Adam as they made their way to a childcare group.

The unnamed driver, who had a Polish or Eastern European accent, said Dylan’s white England shirt was ‘offensive’ and he threatened to turf the family out on the street.

Hell in a handcart, Broken Britain, etc.”

Naturally, the story carried a picture of the patriotic family unit with the stern facial expressions that only victims can pull off:

'Offensive': Sam Fardon and her son Dylan Hall, 2, were allegedly ordered off a bus for wearing England T-shirts

So that’s that then. The Great British Chavs were right and I was wrong. The England shirt ban is true, it is happening, and, God help us, it really is the fault of those damned foreigners!!! OMG LOL!!!!111111

The Daily Mail readers were, inevitably, up in arms. Here’s a selection of the intelligent reasoned responses on offer:

“SACK HIM AND CHARGE HIM FOR BEING A RACIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If it had been the other way round HE WOULD BE SCREAMING RACIST FROM THE ROOF TOPS.

– Pete, Pontefract U.K, 24/5/2010 15:50

“If you do not like the emblems of my country………

LEAVE my country……….

– (Old) Robert, Worcester UK, 24/5/2010 16:02

“So it’s deeply offensive to immigrants who come to this country that english children wear England shirts. I hope she sue’s the pants off him for bullying her little boy who was patriotic enough to support his mother country.

Anne, North Yorkshire, 24/5/2010 16:20″

And, my favourite:

“This kind of incident would never happen in any other Country, what has happened to this once Great Country, the loony left are certainly in charge of the Asylum. Cameron gained a lot of votes so this sort of rubbish would be kicked into touch, but I suppose the “Mighty Lib Dems.” would have somethink to say about it.

– Jake, Warwickshire, 24/5/2010 16:02″

Of course! #nickcleggsfault

Needless to say, the bus company in question pledged to investigate the case fully in order to reprimand the bus driver who so scandalously denied the rights of honest British citizens to show a little national pride.

Only, all evidence pointed to a different story entirely. Here’s the result of First Group Buses’ inquiry:

“Following an alleged incident involving our service and the refusal of a young passenger wearing an England shirt, the following statement has been issued to the media. Paul De Santis, Commercial Director for First said: “The claim made about one of our drivers’ behaviour is a very serious one and we have been in touch with this woman several times to try to establish what actually happened.

We have carried out a full investigation and can’t find any evidence to substantiate this claim. No driver fitting the description given was working on any routes in this area at that time. Our buses were busy around the time yet no one else has been in touch with us about this alleged incident.

“We expect the highest level of professionalism from our drivers and such an act would not be tolerated. However, in this instance it now appears that no such incident took place.

“Far from banning England shirts on our buses First is fully supportive of England’s World Cup campaign and we are, in fact, currently fitting good luck banners featuring England flags on all our buses in England.”

So, what of Sam Fardon? Surely there must be some misunderstanding, a crossed wire? I’m no conspiracy theorist, but could there be a cover-up from the bus company? The big question: What would drive an ordinary mother to tell such a bizarre lie?

Thank God for this quite superb Facebook group. Thanks to the super sleuths among their number, I can now divulge the side of the story The Daily Mail have refused to tell.

You see, this upstanding patriot is, in fact, the very same Samantha Fardon who stole a chequebook and used it to pay £5,000 to herself, together with a string of other offences in 2002.

And, shock horror, England’s rose was at it again in 2004, this time stealing from the kind-hearted couple who were trying to prevent her from forever remaining the despicable waste of oxygen she is.

Which all goes to show that The Daily Mail essentially libelled a decent and proper English company, who’ve had to waste their time and efforts in investigating and dealing with the fallout of a completely fabricated story, based on nothing but the word of a proven liar, an undoubted cheat, and an apparent pox on society who thought nothing of using her own innocent child as a pawn in this bizarre game. And, as yet, they’ve neglected to offer a correction or apology. THERE’S your Broken Britain.

As for those comments on their story, isn’t it remarkable how everybody who thought to have their say on this matter was unanimous in their condemnation of this imaginary bus driver? Except I know for a fact that’s not the case, because I personally wrote a balanced comment suggesting there may be more to the story than meets the eye before the rebuttal from the bus company. I returned with an updated comment after Sam Fardon’s story was utterly compromised by pesky facts suggesting that, in the interests of fairness and honest journalism, The Mail should publish a further story including the information that had since come to light.

Neither of my comments made it through the approval stage. Funny that, isn’t it?

When The Sun goes down…

I read The Sun.

There, I said it.

Before the more discerning (snobbish) reader closes the blog and vows never to read my musings again, bear with me… I mean, of course, it’s not my primary source of news, but I often describe it as the tabloid pudding after my broadsheet main course.

The entertaining thing for me is to see how The Sun will take a story, twist it in a way that it becomes an effective bait for the uneducated, then you can sit back and imagine the ‘HELL IN A HANDCART’ response it’s likely to get from some. It’s sort of unpleasant, but in a nice way – not nasty like The Daily Mail. Russell Brand got it spot on.

It’s evidenced perfectly with this story. A piece of Police advice mentions that pubs may wish to discourage the wearing of Football shirts in order to prevent its clientèle from engaging in violence. It’s misplaced concern at worst, yet The Sun puts its own special spin on the story to engage wind-up mode… “ENGLAND shirts could be BANNED at pubs” screams the story’s top line, selected words capitalised to enhance its anti-PC tone.

Next comes the quote from the victim (attributed to nobody because, let’s face it, the journalist has made it up) which increases the sense of outrage and injustice: ‘But one patriotic fan said yesterday: “We often hear of a loss of pride in Britain, now cops want to ban the England shirt. It’s like saying anyone who wears one is a yob.”‘

So, simple Police guidance has now been twisted into the boys in blue aiming to BAN the England shirt! It cranks up. We can imagine the level of indignation the typical moron is currently feeling… only, in these days of social media, we don’t just imagine their reaction. And thus begins an online movement fuelled by the most retarded game of Chinese Whispers of all time.

Before we know it, despite The Sun’s story carrying no suggestion that the Police advisory comes as a result of protestations from those of other nationalities and creeds, the cries of outrage reach these frankly desperate proportions:

(Click image for full size)

Needless to say, the poster of that particular garbage is no longer my Facebook friend.