Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Moral and Aesthetic Failings of British and Spanish Football

Discussion at departmental tea today finally turned away from Iraq and the lamentable state of American politics. We had a new topic to sink our teeth into: last night's football game (a topic, I see, that Chris Bertram and his commentators have broached over at Crooked Timber). Over the last few months, I've become something of an expert on soccer in general and English and Spanish soccer in particular. I'm still dismayed that the Greeks, an alarmingly retrograde and pedestrian team, won the European Cup. It was a great pity that the Czechs. clearly the best of the bunch, did not win. I wrote at the time that the English media were laboring under the delusion that England are a quality team who are on the verge of greatness. Portugal played them off the park. The same happened last night in Madrid. The gaping gulf in talent that separated the Spanish and English players was astonishing. The English team were an aesthetic disgrace. Added to the physical ugliness of the players (Rooney and the unfortunately named Butt are merely the ugliest of a repellent group), was the ugliness of their play. Beckham yet again demonstrated his limitations as a midfield player. Man U. are well shot of him.

In any case, I was holding forth on this topic to my new colleagues. Fred, the loyal and patriotic little Englander--and "Reader in Peace Studies," a title that always makes me laugh-- made a half-hearted stab at defending the team. He holds the truly bizarre view that whatever Gary Neville's failings as a footballer, he's not bad looking!!!! (Have you seen the conk on the guy?) In the course of the debate, Geoffrey--the departmental expert on nuclear proliferation--added the sage comment: "Better England's aesthetic failings than Spain's moral failings." Everyone agreed and we all went back to discussing Fallujah.

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