Tag Archives: England
Minor deity who featured in 3 World Cups (1998, 2002, 2006) and 2 European Championships (2000, 2004) to finish career with 2012-2013 season—
Asad Yawar (@Mediolana) May 16, 2013
As this summer’s European Championships and London 2012 gently fade into that often nebulous region known as the past, this week yielded an abrupt reminder of the passage of time: the full-on commencement of the European zone qualification process for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Away from the ostensibly major developments on the pitch – a record victory for Bosnia and Herzegovina, a stunning win in Israel for Fabio Capello’s Russian charges and England dropping two potentially vital points at home to a proficient Ukraine – we spotted something of perhaps even greater cultural significance: the presence in the Holland team of one Luciano Narsingh.
Narsingh, a sprightly 21-year-old winger on the roster of Eindhoven’s Philips-created PSV, caught the eye in Holland’s slightly fortunate 2-0 open match triumph over Turkey, and not merely for his neatly-taken 93rd minute strike which settled the contest: as his surname would suggest, Narsingh is partly of Indian descent. His graduation to the Dutch senior national team is part of a noticeable trend: South Asian-origin players representing European countries at the very highest level. In recent years, both France (through part-time filmmaker and poker supremo Vikash Dhorasoo) and Norway (via Feyenoord’s metronomically-consistent holding midfielder Harmeet Singh) have capped players with Indian backgrounds.
The significance of this lies in the fact that France, Norway and Holland all have numerically small South Asian communities; moreover, the aspirations of Indian immigrants (like many other Asian immigrants overseas) have not usually extended to a career in an historically working-class sport such as football. Yet the sporting systems within these countries were meritocratic enough to promote and reward talented players whose parents hail from the Indian subcontinent.
Meanwhile, England – a country where, in 2009, South Asians made up no less than 6.0% of the entire population, with people of this background constituting far higher proportions of denizens in the major conurbations where many larger football clubs are based – seem as far away from capping a player from this background as ever, a fact that in the context of the massive internationalisation of English football that has taken place over the past twenty years forces one to ask some uncomfortable questions about the true extent of tolerance and diversity within the English game and maybe even English society as a whole.
Are there certain domains which will simply never be open to those of the ‘wrong’ background? Does the remarkable relative lack of overt racism or extreme-right populism in British politics disguise a more insidious generalised prejudice whereby acceptance of certain groups is strictly subject to context? And despite the marketing of England – and in particular, London – as globalised, open and tolerant entities, are its citizens still finding ways to live parallel lives?
Most football analysts, commentators and pundits have expended considerable energy on evaluating what the consensus within the global footballing public has determined as the favourites for UEFA Euro 2012: acres of paper and serious screen real estate has concentrated on the squads and tactics of nations such as Spain and Germany, with the odd reference to countries such as France, Italy and Russia thrown in for good measure. But we at Mediolana have discerned an equally fascinating topic of discussion, illustrated by that most curious of contenders, England: the growing importance of infinitesimal, barely-discernible margins in determining success and failure.
To date, England have played two matches at these finals (8th June 2012 – 1st July 2012, Poland and Ukraine): an opening encounter against France (11th June 2012) and last night’s second fixture, an extremely tense game against the Zlatan Ibrahimović-defined Sweden. In England’s first match, they were outshot by their French counterparts in terms of efforts on target by a ratio of 15:1, yet the final score was somehow 1-1. Against Sweden, England needed the assistance of a quite inexplicable error from a goalkeeper with over 90 international caps in order to come back from 2-1 down and almost-certain elimination. Yet at the end of both these games, England were unbeaten with four points on the board and an at least fair chance of proceeding to the knockout stages of the tournament.
A comparison with Group D rivals Sweden is instructive. Sweden convincingly led Ukraine in their first assignment and were by all accounts most unfortunate to come away from the match with a loss; the Swedes also mounted a terrific comeback against England in the first third of the second half, again constructing a winning position in difficult circumstances. But at the time of writing, they are one of only two sides whose removal from Euro 2012 is assured.
How has this state of affairs arisen? Attention to (and luck pertaining to) the tiniest of details appears to be determining destinies. Had England not benefitted from manager Roy Hodgson’s exceptionally astute utilisation of pacy (and mostly inconsistent) substitute Theo Walcott – one fringe player out of twenty-two squad members – large sections of the UK media would doubtless already be baying for his blood; had Sweden captain Ibrahimović given his team a first-half lead against Ukraine instead of seeing his header trickle agonisingly against a post and out of play, the Scandinavians might well be preparing for the quarter-finals instead of flying back home for an extended summer of leisure. Razor-thin success/failure margins are likely to have a very large say in the ultimate destination of the Henri Delaunay Trophy this summer.