#Euro2016: England’s 50 years of football failure

bobby moore

Bobby Moore with the World Cup at Wembley in 1966

England’s loss to football minnow Iceland at Euro 2016 was a disaster and an embarrassment to one of the world’s great football nations and home to the best league in the world, the Premier League.

Incredibly, it also marked 50 years since England last triumphed in an international tournament, that being the 1966 World Cup, played at home, where Bobby Moore captained the team to a famous win over West Germany.

Since then its been one disaster after another: Maradona’s hand of God goal in 1986, and then an incredible six penalty shoot defeats at World Cups and European Championships.

Just how is this possible given all the great players who have donned the famous Three Lions jersey appears unfathomable. Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, Michael Owen, Peter Shilton, David Seaman, Tony Adams, Stephen Gerrard, Wayne Rooney…the list goes on and on.

Perhaps this time we can blame it all on Brexit this time? This is how Gary Lineker reflected on it on Twitter:

The worst defeat in our history. England beaten by a country with more volcanoes than professional footballers. Well played Iceland.

Here’s the full list of failures:

England’s record in international tournaments since the 1966 World Cup triumph:

1970 World Cup: Quarterfinals (lost to W. Germany 3-2 in extra time)

1974 World Cup: Did not qualify

1978 World Cup: Did not qualify

1980 UEFA Euro: Group stage

1982 World Cup: 2nd round (round robin)

1984 UEFA Euro: Did not qualify

1986 World Cup: Quarterfinals (lost to Argentina 2-1)

1988 UEFA Euro: Group stage (lost all three games, including to Ireland)

1992 UEFA Euro: Group stage

1990 World Cup: Fourth (lost semi-final to Germany on penalties)

1994 World Cup: Did not qualify

1996 UEFA Euro: Semi-finals (lost to Germany on penalties)

1998 World Cup: Last 16 (lost to Argentina on penalties)

2000 UEFA Euro: Group stage

2002 World Cup: Quarterfinals (lost to Brazil 2-1)

2004 UEFA Euro: Quarterfinals (lost to Portugal on penalties)

2006 World Cup: Quarterfinals (lost to Portugal on penalties)

2008 UEFA Euro:  Did not qualify

2010 World Cup: 2nd round (lost to Germany 4-1)

2012 UEFA Euro: Quarterfinals (lost to Italy on penalties)

2014 World Cup: Group stages

2016 UEFA Euro: Last 16 (lost to Iceland)

 

The Asian Cup of rogue nations

afc-asian-cup-1420749072-2318216It struck me – with the force of a Tim Cahill wonder strike – that there was something decidedly wrong with the 2015 Asian Cup.

North Korea. Iran. Saudi Arabia. All run by brutal dictatorial regimes, all with appalling human rights records, but allowed to compete in an international sporting event.

Has the world gone mad? Have we lost our moral compass?

I ask from the perspective of a South African who remembers our isolation from world sport, forced to live off a diet of local competitions and the occasional ‘rebel’ cricket or rugby side visit.

Of course, it was quite right that we were banned, given our cruel apartheid policies, though there were some who argued that sport and politics should be kept separate and that we shouldn’t punish individuals, many of whom opposed the government’s policy of separation, from competing internationally.

Certainly, there were many great South African sportsmen and women denied their opportunity on the world stage, barred from competing at  Olympic and Commonwealth Games and from cricket, rugby and soccer world cups.

We had a world-beating cricket team in 1970 (thrashing Australia 4-0 at home) before we were kicked out of world sport, champion rugby and soccer players, swimmers and athletes.

But, I got a real shock when I saw North Korea arrive in Australia to take part in the tournament, a ridiculous charade, given they refused to give media conferences or engage with the public and thankfully were bundled out in the group stages. Clearly instructions came straight from mad dictator Kim Jong-un and his henchmen on how to behave in a foreign country, a rare treat for the lucky few who were able to travel outside of their home country. The rest stay home and starve.

Iran’s another shocker. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is a jihadist theocracy that has dragged Iran into economic depression while executing, imprisoning and intimidating its domestic opponents” wrote the Sydney Morning Herald’s Paul Sheehan recently. Iran is more dangerous than the Islamic State, he added.

Iran’s people are beaten, imprisoned, tortured…but its team is allowed to compete in the Asian Cup. Even the players over here play with fear in their hearts: during the tournament players were warned not to be photographed with young female fans.

As for Saudi Arabia, being a Jew I wouldn’t be allowed into the country (not that I have any plans to visit). Saudi Arabia is by all reports a brutal, repressive place, with medieval laws. The penalty for homosexuality is death. The penalty for blasphemy is death.  Commit adultery and the punishment is to be stoned to death. Steal and you lose a hand. State your opinion in a blog and you get flogged.

So, I ask again, has the world lost its moral compass?

Do we now turn a blind eye now to every human rights violation in the name of sport and entertainment?

Or have we finally decided that sport and politics should not mix. If so, a lot of South African sportsmen and women deserve an apology.