This blog has not started as I intended. Instead of offering an interesting view on some of the less-well commented upon incidents at the World Cup, it seems instead to have transmogrified into an extended version of Media Watch, the popular section from the Real World Cup podcast. The problem is that the media keep giving me too much ammunition.
ITV have come in for the most criticism of course, and it’s easy to see why. Now they’ve sacked Robbie Earle for basically doing what Jack Warner did but on a much smaller scale and with much fitter women. I’m still struggling to work out whether the quality of ITV’s punditry will go up or down as a result. If pushed, I’d say it will go down, and that’s a shame because they are crying out for some decent pundits who aren’t complete wazzocks. Frankly, given the low attendances, I’m not sure what he did was a bad thing. Plus, did I mention how hot the women were?
But what really caught my attention this week was Alan Green. It’s a shame, because Radio 5 is a great station, and I thoroughly recommend downloading their excellent Football Daily / World Cup Daily podcast, but Alan Green is a commentator who’s been past his best for some time now.
Yesterday on 5 Live they were discussing how poor the competition had been so far in their opinion. Alan Green was asked why he thought the games had been lacking in quality and goals, and he replied that he thought that the World Cup should be reduced back down to 16 teams. He said:
There are too many countries here just for the hell of it. With due respect to New Zealand, there are too many countries here just for the privilege of being here. And a World Cup really never properly takes off until you get to the knock-out stages.
Utter nonsense. Let’s break this down. First, he can’t argue that some of the smaller nations are taking their place at the World Cup at the expense of bigger nations. A look around at big(ish) teams who are missing reveals a whole host of European teams, such as Czech Republic, Croatia, Russia, Ukraine, Norway. Is that really what the tournament needs? More European teams? No. And I don’t think that was Green’s point either. But he can’t argue that the smaller nations are impacting on the quality the big teams provide, because the big teams are all here.
This is a World Cup, and I like the fact that so many continents are represented in such a way. This year, there are 6 African teams, 5 Asian/Oceanic teams, 5 South American teams, 3 from North America and the remaining 13 from Europe. As Jimmy Armfield said in 2006, the World Cup has a truly international feel to it. Given that European football is a powerhouse in the world game, it’s hard to imagine they would be happy to let too many places go in the event the World Cup was downsized to 16 teams. Which would mean fewer places for African, Asian, and North American teams. New Zealand in the World Cup? Forget it. And why shouldn’t they be here?
The problem with Green is that he, presumably, only wants to see the biggest teams in the World Cup, whereas I believe that a World Cup should involve countries from as many corners of the globe as possible. Thanks to the World Cup, I now know more about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea than I thought possible (and I still know bugger all). Whilst I can impress my pals with facts about the Spain team, or the USA team, or even South Africa, I’m sure we all enjoy the unknown of a World Cup. I know very little about Chile, for example, who are playing Honduras as I speak. It’s a great opportunity to learn about other countries and their national teams and, unfortunately Green doesn’t see that.
His attitude smacks of someone who doesn’t like the unknown, who only wants to see the “biggest and best” on the world stage. In the age of the Premier League and Champions League, Super Sundays, and WAGS and slags, sometimes it’s nice to forget about the commercial appeal of the bigger nations, and concentrate on the football. I for one, welcome the smaller teams in this tournament and, frankly, DPR Korea provided far more entertaining and attacking verve than, say, France, Ivory Coast, or even Italy.
The thing that grates the most is Green’s notion that the smaller nations have joined the World Cup when they have no right to. That notion is such utter nonsense, and it’s a shame that a man with such a platform from which to broadcast his views holds such backwards and outdated opinions on smaller nations.