Moral Dilemma For Aussie Geordie
As an Englishman and a football fan the European Championships is naturally a big deal. After the World Cup this is easily the second biggest tournament in the world and arguably even more difficult to win.
England have a truly awful record at the Euros. We have failed to qualify five times (1964, 1972, 1976, 1984, 2008) and of the seven we have qualified for, four times (1980, 1988, 1992, 2000) we didn’t get out of the group stage, including the humiliation of 1988 where we lost all three games.
It hasn’t been all doom and gloom though and when in the long hot summer of 1996 ‘Football Came Home’ all previous European failures were forgotten. I was at the perfect age (21) to enjoy Euro 96 in England. Marauding victories over Scotland and Holland in the Group Stage were inspired by Alan Shearer and Paul Gascoigne, which were then toasted with copious amounts of alcohol. Ultimately it was the Germans and penalties that once again stopped us in our tracks at the semi-final stage, but not until after we’ve beaten Spain in the knock-out stage.
Like the vast majority of Geordies I make no mistake in letting people know I support Newcastle United first and England second. Given the choice of England winning the World Cup or the Toon winning the Carling cup, I’d choose the Carling Cup every time. Some people outside the North East see this as a lack of respect for your country, I disagree. I have travelled the world following the England cricket team and I ferociously support England at any sport, with football though my heart will always be Black & White.
Since the turn of the millennium my sense of respect and connection with the England players has rapidly dwindled, leading to my support of England becoming more and more half-hearted. My pride and passion of England as a team has not faltered, but instead this has been overshadowed by a bunch of players with whom I loathe to support. The withdrawal of Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and the non-selection of Rio Ferdinand for this tournament is a welcome surprise and relief, but the fact that John Terry still remains feels like the deal breaker to me.
At Euro 2012 England have drawn in the same group as the hosts Ukraine, Sweden and France.
Selected in the French squad are a certain Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa, two of Newcastle’s finest players this season. Every game France play should be a pleasure to watch. They’ve got two fantastic Toon players that I’ll be desperate to see do well (and not get injured!), plus they have some skilful and talented players in Karim Benzema, Franck Ribéry, Samir Nasri and Olivier Giroud for example.
However, let’s be honest, everybody knows traditionally the French and the English don’t always get along. In football terms after Germany and Scotland, the French would be the next team I’d want to see England smash, so any thoughts of wanting to see France do well in a tournament does not sit well. However, the thought of Ben Arfa skipping past Ashley Cole and John Terry making them both look like mugs, or Cabaye outplaying Steven Gerrard to make a defence splitting pass for Benzema does make me smile.
So what do I do, my dilemma is do I support a country I love with players I don’t respect, or do I support a country I don’t respect with players I love?
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