Monday, June 12, 2006

World Cup fever ... not

While sales of barbecue meat soar and the lager cans hurtle towards the city centre giant screens back home, world cup fever has, um, failed to get feverish here at all.

As mentioned before, Spain are such perrenial under-achievers that nobody has any r confidence of them getting anywhere. On top of that they are too busy celebrating their real winners - Nadal in the tennis and Alonso in the motor racing.

And of course, this is Barcelona, capital of Catalonia. It's not quite as bad as Scotland however, more indifference rather than hatred. My sister's first world cup spent north of the border was rather ruined by the number of locals dressed in Argentine shirts when England played them. It was the same two years ago when a pleasant lunch with a Glasgow financial PR was spoiled by her telling me she would be going home and cheering Croatia on against England that night.

So strong is the position of club football that everything is seen through that lens. So the headlines in yesterday's sports papers was 'Deco makes his debut' (except he didn't and sat on the Portugese bench instead) while the Mexico victory was hailed for the magisterial role played by Deco's Barca teammate Marquez.

Still there are good omens, such as Raul's injury (which avoids the need to actually drop the old donkey on grounds of competence) that might just ensure the national team surprise all and sundry.

Which is more than England managed to do on Saturday. Their opener was only on satellite here (another sign that they don't care that much - only half the games are free to air and that on a new channel that a good part of the country has trouble receiving) so Ben and I trotted around to a quiet local bar to watch.

By half time Ben was asking to go home. So dull was the remainder of the game that I spent most of it chatting with an English neighbour about the local schools and access to the open air swimming pool. We were considering an in depth discourse on the new local constitution - a document about as opaque as one of Sven's game plans - when thankfully the ref blew for full time.

There has been some truly wonderful stuff in the UK papers of which two pieces stand out. Writing about the predictable tediousness of the England performance in the Telegraph, the peerless Jim White writes:
It is what happens every week in the football leagues; it is what those whose emotions have been invested in the game marginally longer than the past three weeks understand. But for this England to play like that is to rub up against the new assumptions. How can the beautiful game be so pragmatic? How can something sold as the richest and most spontaneous of art forms be so mechanical?
Even more coruscating was James Lawton of The Independent loading up his Armalite and giving Sven lock, stock and countless smoking barrels. The opening paragraph give you a taste of the hemlock-soaked script that follows:

Amid another barrage of English excuses for an unacceptable performance there is no escaping a shocking conclusion. It may be harsh but it is unavoidable. Michael Owen's torment has already become Sven Goran Eriksson's cross. It must make you wonder how quickly the crucifixion will follow.
Ouch. Read the rest here. But as a friend at The Indy asks 'What does he say if we win the thing?'

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