I find myself in London, watching the game with my sister as England take on Germany in the World Cup.
“Great tackle. GREAT tackle”, emphasised Mark Lawrenson as Ashley Cole went in studs first on a German ankle.
“The referee got that one right,” the commentator asserts not long after, as replays showed Rooney throwing himself melodramatically against a German defender.
My sister can’t understand why I am not fervently rooting for England. I find it hard to grasp why she is. Alison, though, lives in England, where the hysterically one-eyed media coverage of England’s various footballing campaigns doesn’t seem quite so inappropriate as it does in other parts of the UK. For my part, I take no specific pleasure in England losing, as some of the natives in my adopted country do. An English exit from a major tournament brings relief, rather than glee.
Germany’s keeper whacks a long goal-kick down the middle, and Klose holds off the attempted foul from Upson to poke it into the corner past James. “Sunday pub league goal,” dismisses Lawro, as if the Germans should somehow be ashamed of themselves for scoring it.
Podolski makes it two after 33 minutes.
I was midway through explaining my Brits-don’t-have-the-right-psychological-makeup-to-win-consistently theory to Alison, when England, rather inconveniently, scored. She shrieked. I slumped.
This seemed to be a good time to ‘catch up’, my sister having paused the match near the start on account of retrieving baby Sebastian from his slumbers. She fast-forwarded the TV back to normal time, just in time to see Lampard’s shot crash off the crossbar and over the line. Not given. Cue a studioful of half-time experts who, it would seem, have been campaigning vociferously for goal-line technology to be introduced for years.
Mercifully England’s overall ineptitude meant it finished 4-1 rather than 2-1, or there may have been riots in the streets. Not in Hackney, probably, where there may well be more local support for Ghana than England.
Two days later, Peter Singer, writing in the Guardian, has a pop at the German goalkeeper for ‘cheating’ by not owning up that the ball had crossed the line. As, no doubt, the England goalkeeper would have done in similar circumstances. He quotes cricket as an example of a sport where players sometimes walk even when they haven’t been given out. Tellingly, to find a high-profile instance of this happening, he has to go all the way back to the 2003 World Cup, when Adam Gilchrist walked against Sri Lanka in a semi-final. Walking is not common in high-level cricket, or even at lower levels, for that matter. Besides, Gilchrist once walked thinking he’d been caught, when replays proved his bat had hit the ground rather than the ball. Gilchrist’s approach was laudable, but at that level a player is entitled to allow the umpire to make the decision. And if Neuer, the German keeper, had insisted to the referee and his assistant that the goal should stand, they would most likely have waved away his protests.
Having sweated my way into town yesterday and exhausted myself by simply pootering around the South Bank in the heat, I have decreed today to be a rest day. Sitting around, mostly outside, reading Marcus Berkmann’s Rain Men, has been the order of the day. My sister is just about to go out for a walk with Maggie and the little girl she looks after on Tuesdays. Sebastian is upstairs asleep, and I am instructed to get him up at 3.45pm.
“Do I need to do anything after that?” I enquired, hoping that I wouldn’t be expected to do anything too complicated, like change his nappy.
“Change his nappy.”
“Ok.” How hard can it be?