Finally, after being back in the country for four days the Football Nerd gang are beginning to shake off the hangovers and clear our heads after the fun, games and merriment we had enjoying the opening week of the World Cup over in Russia. We will be chronicling our adventures in full in due course, but in the meantime here are some reflections from Our Kid on his experience at the Brazil – Costa Rica game we were fortunate enough to attend at the space-age St Petersburg stadium last Friday:
It’s just like watching Brazil…but thankfully not like watching England
For the second time in a month I have had the pleasure of watching Marcelo playing from up high in a stadium (first time in the Champions League final), and again he was outstanding. His Brazilian colleagues couldn’t match the crisp passing and smooth movement of the Real Madrid Galaticos, which is what makes the World Cup an interesting change.
Brazil have talent in abundance, but it has not been assembled by a manager scouring the world for complimentary parts. For national teams they are gifted from heaven. No one would turn down any of Neymar, Jesus or Coutinho, not to mention, Willian, Firmino and Paulinho; but trying to work them into a formation that optimises their talent, or leaving one or two on the bench is a challenge for any manager. Much easier when you only have one true football genius like Portugal that you can build a team round.
Time will tell if Tite can manage to get anything like the sum of the parts form his squad as Belgium albeit against weaker opposition have hinted. But with the “haves” dealing with these issues and the “have nots” benefitting from improved fitness, better organisation and more in-depth technical knowledge we are seeing some fascinating battles, like Brazil v Costa Rica, I had the pleasure of enjoying this week.
The other major thought I had walking out of the Zenit St Petersburg football spaceship, surrounded by jubilant, relieved Brazilians and devastated Costa Ricans, was why as an England supporter I cannot enjoy a similar sense of belonging? With the colour, noise and vibrancy of fans from all nations mixing in and around this wonderful city, I could only think what a contrast it is with England.
Was I proud to tell people from the different corners of the globe that I am from England, game inventors, mass travellers and witty lyricists? After all, that’s what I feel with Liverpool, as I am sure followers of United, Tottenham, Arsenal etc feel when travelling Europe. The answer was no, I preferred to tell them I was from Liverpool, and before anyone says anything, when a fair proportion of Londoners don’t know where the Wirral is, you can hardly expect, Egyptians, Mexicans and Croatians to know!
Whilst you can’t judge individuals by the collective, groups develop cultures and the England football fan culture is not nice. Personal experience includes: being told to sit down when the Marseilles was played in the Stade de France; hearing one of the greatest players in the world, Zidane, described by an unpleasant word beginning with C, twice in the same moronic insult; and even Steven Gerrard described with the same four letter word by an England fan at Wembley.
I am sure there are a majority of England fans that would prefer an experience more akin to watching Brazil in the stands as well as on the pitch, I am not sure how it can be changed. Whilst it would be nice to impose banning orders for being an ignorant, xenophobic bigot, it’s not really feasible, is it? So for now it’s better to gatecrash someone else’s party and support the efforts of Mr Southgate and his charges from a distance; and to those England fans, like we oft say of politicians, not in my name.