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Is the Premier League to blame?

Bikram Vohra

Whenever you do those IQ tests they have that terrible question about if nine is to sixteen then a rabbit is to something and you have to guess the something and I hate that question. But I do have an answer to one such equation. What India is to world cricket England is to ????

The answer is simple. Football. I remember how often I have sat there doing permutations and combinations of the absurd sort to somehow get India into the next round of an international cricket tournament when they are mucking about. If the moon turns to green cheese and Jupiter is in the seventh house and Gayle gets out early and Kenya beat Australia by nine wickets we can do it, it's a doddle.

The same sort of frenetic exercise has been rife the past week about England's chances. It is like there is the World Cup on the one side and there is England's fortunes on the other. Mutually exclusive. Two games down and all I heard is my English supporting friends doing these mental maths and working out how St. George could still gallop (oh, okay stumble) into the round of 16.

Even after it was done and dusted and hope had spread her wings and fluttered off, diehard fans were saying, there has to be a way, some way in which we can sneak in. And all the commentators on the telly on any channel echoed much the same sentiment. How does England get into the second round, do we need a couple of newts and a frog or two with a lizard's tail for good measure? Some magic potion from our equivalents of Getafix?

My Arsenal fan and friend puts it rather well. "It is all because of the Premier league, the world knows the players, loves the teams, has a passion that goes beyond the normal and there is so much hype that even when they are losing, or have lost, the other countries have enough club players to create the illusion that England is still in there fighting. That's it. The illusion is so strong it is actually invasive. And why not, what with 110 players in the 32 countries at the Cup from the Barclays brigade. Even as England flies back there are 17 guys from Chelsea, 14 from Man U, one less from Arsenal and a round dozen from Liverpool. France has 10 people who play in England and Brazil has seven.

Since the league itself has 1,537 foreign inductees the poor World Cup showing has now sparked a new outrage. The strident call is for England to find and nurture homegrown talent. From scratch. Argument; the league is strengthening other countries at the cost of England, both in terms of money and capability. Even as racism continue to rear its ugly head around the world, the 'Club' fixture in England is more important than those who wear the colors (or their own color) and therein lies the rub. The colonization of English football is happily tolerated, even encouraged. Uruguay's Luis Suarez, for example, would still be welcomed with love and cheers at John Lennon airport in the unlikely event he returns to wear Liverpool colors...never mind Barcelona. Except now the biter has bitten and probably will go to the cuckoo's nest.

Add to this global invasion of English soccer the new dimension of dismay being expressed by the players and ex-players about being chosen to play for England not being such a great thing and it is a pretty sad state of affairs. Not worth the hassle, not enough money, too much media attention, constant criticism, life is so much more fun at the Club level where you are loved and understood even after a beating...there is always next week when you can pull in the slack. Contrary to the belief that the honor of playing for your country being paramount this revelation does put the old Etonian ethic more than a little out of joint.

Consequently, the disappointment has to be tempered with 'reasonable excuse'. One, blame the painted pitch at Manaus. Two, let the blame lie with the Rooney jinx that survived even after he finally scored. Three, Roy Hodgson's gap between strategy and tactics. Four, the lack of commitment by the players out-psyched by playing their mates on the other side, ergo, it blunted the killer instinct.

Finally, let's get English...but will that drain the magic of the league? Possibly.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 28, 2014
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