England And The Meaningful Friendly

Posted: November 18, 2015 in England, Football, International Football, Opinion
Tags: , , ,

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This was going to be titled, ‘England and the Meaningless Friendlies, (part III).’

As anybody who follows these inane waffles will know, I have already written and published the first two parts, which question the value of these games.

However, this was not a meaningless friendly. This was one of the most meaningful friendlies played in a very long time.

It was a friendly football match that actually meant something for all the wrong reasons. It was right that it was played. Any act designed to terrorise, kill and maim people is sick enough in its own right but, to then cede more to the perpetrators by cancelling a sporting event which had been planned for a while, somehow makes it even worse, if that is at all possible.

They had their despicable moment of “victory” on the night of the deed. It is disgusting to think that even one of these vermin is sitting comfortably somewhere, even happier in the knowledge that, at a slightly later date, their actions are still having repercussions.

I don’t blame the Germans for cancelling their game against Holland. When a bomb is found 90 minutes before kick-off, it doesn’t then leave enough time to get the all-clear for an event of that size.

Similarly in Belgium. If the authorities did not feel that they could guarantee the safety of the public then they took the correct course of action in cancelling the game. Neither country can be taken to task for their actions.

The game that mattered went ahead. In my opinion it mattered because it involved France. It gave them the chance to appear to continue as normal despite the atrocity committed just four days earlier.

The two sets of supporters singing ‘La Marseillaise’ as old rivalries were forgotten and the English national anthem taking second place were nice touches. It always seems a pity that it takes tragedy or violent acts to bring people together in this way.

As expected, the game was not a classic although both sides contributed to an entertaining match, England eventually running out the winners by 2-0 thanks to goals from Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney. France had beaten the World Cup winners four days earlier but, for obvious reasons, did not seem to have the same appetite in this game.

This was a match where the result was unimportant. The way the game was played was largely unimportant, who was selected for the teams was unimportant. What was important was that a show of solidarity was put on by two nations who have suffered from violence in the past, with France the most recent victim of vile acts of terrorism.

It was important because more than 70,000 people turned out to watch the game. They knew it wasn’t going to be a scintillating display of football, they knew that, more than likely, the two teams wouldn’t completely have their hearts in it, but they turned out anyway. It was a show of defiance from the public, the public who will always show defiance when cowardly acts like the one in Paris take place.

This game, as is my feeling about many friendlies, taught us nothing about the teams, the prospects of either one of them for the Euros next year or even a formation that could be used. What it did teach us is far more important than any of the mundane football theories the coaches look for.

It taught us that people who are not naturally comfortable with each other will come together in times of adversity. That reluctant allies, when needed, really are allies. That they don’t desert their neighbours in times of need, they embrace them. That is what happened at Wembley, allies embraced, and the football was an entertaining sideshow.

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