Last week I choked twice in my fruit salad as I read a Guardian feature about the idea of excluding Malta and other minnows (what a derogatory term coming from those who invented the game yet have lived for 40 years without a piece of silverware) from qualifying to Euro 2012.
This sudden brainwave is nothing more than cheap pub talk, stuff you’d usually hear from loud oversized Brummies who are busy spilling their oversized pints. It bases itself on the disputable fact that most of these “minnows” get regular beatings from medium and big sized teams. The illustrious list includes us, Luxembourg, San Marino, The Faroe Islands, and Azerbaijan. Oh, and Andorra.
To get things straight, will you tell me when we last lost 5-0 or 6-0? I can tell you San Marino do regularly. And Andorra? They hardly have a football pitch capable of withstanding 90 minutes of pre-pre-pre-qualifying rounds for the Champions League.
What about Azerbaijan? Last time they played England at St James Park they didn’t have such a torrid time (2-0). As for the Faroes, they weren’t so crap against Italy huh?
Thankfully, MFA’s Louis Micallef retorted ably. Should we sit and watch the others play? No, not really.
After all, while it’s true we can hardly help our backsides off the bottom of our ever-boring table (why do we always face the usual Eastern European teams and never come up against Italy, Germany, En-ge-land, Spain, maybe France) we have had big disappointments, borne out of bad luck mostly, and no real drubbing. Out of a pool between us, Luxembourg, Faroe Islands, Azerbaijan and Andorra I’d place us behind Luxembourg, whose economy nowadays depends on hordes of Maltese translators.
You know, the British find it funny that a midfielder in Luxembourg’s first XI delegated his duty behind the counter of his own clothes shop to make the national team. But unless mistaken, the FA Cup is choked by non-league football teams in its early rounds, some of whom manage an upset or two against the big boys. Does the pool not apply there?
I challenge the Guardian to send their dozy national team over here and we’ll see if we concede more than two or three. They are so constipated up front anyways that it would be easier to spot Rooney walking into a Paceville brothel than netting the winner.
Which brings me to the next point. If Guardian considers us to be a nuisance, then how would they like reporting Serbia v England next time round?
Before the braying starts, it has as much to do with politics as I have with palmistry. It’s the sad state of football, and, allow me to say this, the Italians got a taste of their own medicine: uncontrollable, drunken beasts wreaking mayhem through the city centre before imposing themselves on the stadium. Eventually they had their way and from a tiny corner in the stadium, largely outnumbered yet sufficiently armed (of course, nobody bothered to search them) they managed to stop the game.
This has happened quite a few times in Italy (my last recollection was Atalanta v Milan two or three years ago, together with that nasty Catania v Palermo derby where a police officer was killed).
As I said, it’s not politics. Hillsborough wasn’t politics, Heysel wasn’t politics, tragedies in football are mostly down to thuggery. Just now, another news wire has confirmed that Serb hooligans caused the ruckus to damage their own FA. Burning an Albanian flag was just a stunt. Done in the usual bad taste.
There was a time when politics mattered inside the pitch, at least in the Balkans. I remember watching a documentary about Zvonimir Boban, probably the greatest midfielder the region had to offer. Boban instantly became Croatia’s national hero after kicking a policeman who was lashing out at Dinamo Zagreb fans as matters overheated in a match against Red Star Belgrade (once a glorious side in Europe) back in 1990. Death threats and a move to Milan followed. Then, probably, there was a bit of politics, or rather, self-determination and independence, that helped matters escalate.
But this is different. This is police forces unable to control thugs from running riot. Not that I have anything against the Serbs. They could have been monks from Tibet for all I care.
The Guardian wants to send us out of the European competitions? Why don’t they pick on someone their size? Why don’t they, seasoned hooligan nurses, try to wipe the filth off football?
I’d love to see Ivan Bogdanov being interviewed by the same wisecrack at guardian.co.uk. I predict a riot.
written for footballxs.com