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It is the cricket season

After a few months of rather dodgy weather, summer has at last arrived in London. The evenings are long, the weather is warm, and the mood is good. It is a lovely time to be outside in the beer garden of a nice pub, with a pint of Kölsh lager or something similar. It would be nice to perhaps spend some of the weekend following up on this: sitting in a pub, watching a little sport perhaps on a TV in a quiet civilized audience somewhere.

Unfortunately, it is a slow weekend from a sporting point of view. International cricket has been going for a month or so. England have already played a three test series against Sri Lanka in which the cricket was rather variable, both sides playing well at some points and quite badly at others. (The eventual 1-1 drawn series was a fair result). There are some one day internationals coming up, but the international season doesn’t get back into full swing until England’s test series with Pakistan commences on July 13. In English domestic cricket, Australia’s cricketing genius on the field and A class idiot off it Shane Warne is playing brilliantly as captain of Hampshire, clearly determined to improve on the second place in the County Championship that the county achieved last season when Warne was largely absent due to being off playing for Australia.

And of course, the peace of the true sporting fan is going to be horribly distracted by the fact that the soccer World Cup is being played for the next month.

In the first few weeks of my first stay in England in 1991, I found that English people would utter the words “Nineteen Sixty Six” into all kinds of conversations, usually spoken in hushed tones remniscent of some sort of religious rapture. I found this deeply peculiar, and after it happened four or five times I finally asked one of these people what had happened in 1966, because the English kept bringing it up in this odd way. The response I got was initially disbelief that I was asking this question (the same sort of disbelief that I would get later when I revealed that I was not intimitely familiar with British politics or minor British television personalities of the early 1970s), and when it was figured out that I was serious it was explained to me that Britain had won the World Cup in 1966, and they were still getting joy out of this. I found this kind of sad, but I let them keep it up. I had had some idea that the English (and indeed other Europeans) had some sort of affection for this game.

Then, as now, I could not treat any of this with even the remotest seriousness. As to why Europe and many other parts of the world are so preoccupied with this stupid game that is disdained by all real men, I have no idea. People kick around a round ball and seldom score goals, but spend an awful lot of time falling over and pretending to be injured. Meanwhile, spectators fight out three thousand years of European ethnic disagreements in the stadium. I am unable to even regard it as a sport. I cannot take it seriously enough even for that.

And the lead up to a major tournament like the World Cup is so ridiculous. Rather than declaring themselves to be chavs by wearing a backwards Burberry baseball cap plus three gold chains and an iPod shuffle outside their shirts as they would in normal circumstances, people declare themselves to be chavs by attaching four England flags to the outside of their cars. It is really awful. The newspapers are full of nothing but the tournament. Conversation is about nothing else. The pubs become full of rowdy people who get aggressive when England (inevitably) lose. I just want to sit outside and drink my pint in the sun, but I cannot.

The most I can hope is that it will be over fast. For that reason I hope that England loses every game 10-0, in order that they are eliminated as quickly as possible and my summer can get back to normal. For the sake of God Almighty do not let England win the stupid tournament. The prospect of them being obnoxious about it for the next 40 years is so horrible that I would have to leave the country. If Sven-Goran Ericsson could also conclude his career as England manager by getting into a bizarre sex scandal with Wayne Rooney, that would be an added bonus. While on that, I would also like to see the Italians eliminated quickly, and hopefully in some really embarassing fashion. When they were elimiated by South Korea in the 2002 tournament they went on to demonstrate that they were the worst losers in all of human history, and I would like to see this again.

As for the event in total, I hope that the United States win it, ideally by beating France in the final. That would be the best possible outcome, as the Americans wouldn’t actually care, the French and the English would, and we would be spared any nation at all from being obnoxious about it for the next three decades, as would be the case in the event of any other winner.

Sadly, my own nation seems to have lost the kind of civilized attitude held by the Americans. Australia have qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 32 years. On the previous occasion when Australia qualified (in 1974), they were given a parade down the main street of Sydney before heading off to Germany for the tournament. On that occasion the team was heckled and whistled at by bystanders for playing a girls’ game, but sadly that sort of attitude is now gone. Australians are watching the tournament with interest, although they wouldn’t pay much or any attention to soccer on any other occasion. Somehow they think that since much of the rest of the world cares about this idiotic event, they should too. I can’t imagine that things in Australia are as bad as here – for one thing I don’t think our bogans will be attaching multiple Australian flags to their white Ford Falcon utes, which is something. However, people are, sadly, watching. I don’t really care one way or another if Australia do well, although in truth they are in quality so far from the decent soccer sides that if will be a good result if they score a goal in the tournament. That said, I rather wish the Australian media left the event in the obscurity it deserves.

For Australians’ mind should be focused, and they should be thinking about something much more important than this trivia. There is an actual sporting event taking place at the end of the year, and this one does matter. The shame of Edgbaston must be expunged. The Ashes must be regained.

35 comments to It is the cricket season

  • Uain

    Ahh… the first post.

    Being a Yank and having played semi-pro football (that’s *real* American football) in my youth, you Euro’s would be heartened to know I have accepted soccer. Can’t quite get into Cricket though. Anyway, I work in a new company now that is mostly Germans and Scots and the World Cup is big stuff. There are all sorts of plans afoot as to how the soccer games shall be brought into the work place (cable, satellite, etc). This is all completely er, well foreign to me, like the World Series and March Madness all rolled into one. But it is all great fun and a completely new experience.

  • Michael

    You miserable, pretentious, cynical old git. Thank goodness England is full of the people you describe rather than people like you.

  • Stuart

    “Thank goodness England is full of ………”

    Yes, and thank goodness so many of them aren’t allowed to travel abroad to pollute the civilised world with their foul mouthed, beer swilling moronic “Inger-lund” behaviour.
    Thank goodness that there are still many places where wall-to-wall coverage of this silly tournament isn’t beamed in to every bar, cafe and public building.

  • What did the Italians do in 2002?

  • I’ve been looking at the drivers of these flag-waving vehicles and…half of them are in white vans, and the rest are white, male, tattooed, pot-bellied 35 to 55-years-olds: exactly the type I’ve been seeing on TV for the past month complaining about “our houses going to the asylum seekers”, or that “we’re losing control of our country

    The Guardian, 18/5/06

    Rather than declaring themselves to be chavs by wearing a backwards Burberry baseball cap plus three gold chains and an iPod shuffle outside their shirts as they would in normal circumstances, people declare themselves to be chavs by attaching four England flags to the outside of their cars. It is really awful.


    Interesting to note the contempt for England’s working class extends across the political spectrum.

  • Pete_London

    Michael Jennings –

    In the event of England winning the World Cup again (did you know we also won it in 1966?!) I’ll be happy to drive you to the airport. If you’re sticking around, a career at the Guardian awaits.

    I sincerely wish you a miserable summer.

  • Tim Sturm

    Geez, there’s some humourless people around.

  • Mommy Warbucks

    I guess some people just don’t know when their chain is being pulled

  • Matra

    Well said Michael. The Aussies are a disappointment. Like Americans they look de-nationalised playing the world’s game. Canadians have also gone “soccer” crazy. They look and sound ridiculous not knowing the players and songs – they just go “England…WOO!!!WOO!” and talk about “SOCK-er”. Pathetic.

  • Richard Thomas

    They look and sound ridiculous not knowing the players and songs

    Ah yes, such timeless classics as “one-nil, one-nil, one-nil, one-nil” sung to the tune of “Amazing Grace”, “two-nil, two-nil, two-nil, two-nil” sung to the tune of, er, “Amazing Grace” and “You’re going home in a f*cking taxi cause the ambulance drivers are on strike”.


  • Pete_London

    I guess some people just don’t know when their chain is being pulled

    Oh I think we do. It’s just that whiny, Aussie chippiness is something else.

  • The Last Toryboy

    I always thought the “timeless classic” was the “One world cup and two world wars, doo dah, doo dah” one.

  • Effing and Blinding

    Toryboy, with Australia playing Japan on Monday, do you think it could be

    “Several world cups (in other sports) and one world war, doo dah, doo dah.

    Seriously, if you think the English are a bunch of w**kers for banging on about long distant glories, they still can’t beat Heineken. Last time I looked on a bottle, they were still going on about some medal they won at a fete in Antwerp in about 1899. Get over it guys!

  • tranio

    This is off the sporting theme but can be talked about sitting in the pub. I live in Canada and have just received a letter from HM Revenue & Customs in
    Bootle Merseyside that has a postmark from Sweden,
    Malmo to be precise. Anyone know why? All I can surmise is that the postage from Sweden to Canada is cheaper than that from the UK to Canada. Someone though has bundled a pile of foreign mail together and paid to send it to Sweden?

  • nick

    Perhaps Michael is just disguising some well intentioned mozz?


  • Stuart K Jarman

    Last Toryboy: surely you’re forgetting the classic lyrical masterpiece “ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ ere we go” (etc. ad infinitum)

    Tranio: I live in the US and recently I’ve had two letters from the UK Dept. of work and Pensions that bore SWISS postage-paid labels! Maye there is so much money hoarded away from unclaimed or wrongly denied disability benefits they have to put it in a Swiss bank account these days…………

  • “Several world cups (in other sports) and one world war, doo dah, doo dah.

    Effing and Blinding needs to brush up on his Australian history.

    Pete_London – as much as I like the English, do you really think it wise for an Englishman to charge others with the crime of being whiny?

    My major beef with this piece is that I think Michael is being excessively cynical. Soccer in Australia has become a lot more popular in the intervening years since the 70s, when it was certainly a considerably poorer relation to the dominant football codes in this country; Aussie Rules and rugby. Soccer’s still not as popular as AFL, rugby or cricket in Oz, but asserting that Australians are simply following their World Cup team because they think they should ‘cos everyone else is belies a ridiculously misplaced antipathy towards people with a genuine interest in the sport.

  • “Soccer in Australia has become a lot more popular in the intervening years since the 70s”

    God knows why though. It’s still the same boring sport it ever was. I’d rather watch snooker.

  • Well, yes, although I find watching any sport to be tedious in the extreme.

  • Well, I am a Wollongong boy. That’s a really big rugby league town. I think I was aiming for the tone of the rather Neanderthal Anglo-Saxon males that I went to school with. The first draft of the post was much more homophobic, but one of my co-contributors (Hi Scott) suggested I should tone it down before posting, as it was likely that non-Australians might think I was serious, or as a minimum wouldn’t have the foggiest of ideas what I was getting at.

    Of course, Wollongong is also a very big soccer town by Australian standards, as it has very big Italian, Greek, and Balkan communities, but that’s a different part of town. This leads to the thing that English visitors find really weird, which is that in certain communities (traditional working class Sydney and nearby) the kind of disdain for “soccer” that I was imitating is actually a way of being assertively Anglo-Saxon.

  • I still want to know what the Italians got up to in 2002 – sounds amusing! I have an Italian friend I’d like to rib.

  • James, I’m not a football fan but as it’s inescapable I think I remember what happened. The South Korean guy who scored against Italy’s day job was playing for an Italian club. Perugia or someone like that. Well, his employers sacked him on some trumped up clause simply for having the nerve to score a goal doing his job.

  • I also recall reading a reprinted editorial from an Italian newspaper that argued that given the obvious corruption of the referee and the travesty of the result, that FIFA’s management therefore had to show leadership and call the rest of the tournament off, as it was from then on completely meaningless. This was apparently written with complete seriousness.

    There were a whole series of things like this. It was wonderful

  • Ted Schuerzinger


    Funny that the Italians would complain about corrupt officiating.

    I just hope the US can get a fair official in their match against Italy on the 17th. 😉

  • Effing and Blinding

    James, what bit of history do I need to brush up on?

    We have won several world cups in other sports (cricket, rugby as well as de facto world cups such as Davis Cup) and fought Japan in one world war in which we were on the winning side.

    You’re not going all revisionist on me and suggest we were on the losing side? Or that we also fought Japan in WW1?

  • Having watched last night’s rugby sideshow, I concluded that George Gregan would make an excellent Italian soccer player. Not even my wife complains that often.

  • HJHJ

    So Michael isn’t enjoying the summer.

    God knows how miserable he is going to be at the end of the year when the Australian cricket team get soundly thrashed again.

  • John R

    But Michael, the “actual sporting event” in Australia which matters won’t be at the end of the year, since it actually takes place in the last week of September at the MCG when (all being well and in my wildest dreams) the Fremantle Dockers will demolish the West Coast Eagles in the Grand Final of the only sport that matters … AFL. Cricket? Soccer? Rugby? As real sports they aren’t even in the frame.

  • Effing and Blinding – apologies, I misunderstood you! I thought you meant we participated in one world war (obviously incorrect), but you were referring to when we beat the Japanese, which we did once. Oops!

  • Graham Asher

    What a miserable, mean-spirited post by Michael Jennings. And what a disappointment. I used to come to Samizdata for interesting libertarian and free-market-oriented commentary.

  • Do you normally start to disdain a group blog because one contributor out of many writes one article you don’t agree with?

  • I believe it is spelt “kölsch”

  • Also, it is top fermented and hence not a lager. Could I really have been that ignorant in 2006?