England’s 1966 World Cup triumph is still a rare beacon of sporting success. Over 40 years of hurt later, a repeat of this famous victory looks as far off as ever. It is now embedded in the nation’s footballing psyche that penalty shoot-out failure is our fate. Does it need to be like this? How do Brazil, Italy or Germany consistently manage to achieve at international football, whilst England are perennial quarter-finalists?
In other sports things are not much better. There are rare moments of excellence. The 2003 Rugby World Cup victory, great athletes such as Steve Redgrave and crew, Daley Thompson and Seb Coe. These seem like rare moments of light in a history of defeat, failure and tales of what might have been. England is said to be the home of cricket but are yet to win the Cricket World Cup, and tennis, well let’s not even go there. Scots seem happier wallowing in the failure of England’s finest than celebrating the achievements of Scotland’s own perennial also-rans.
Are we just a small island nation in Northern Europe which expects too much from its sportsmen? Or might there be a special ingredient to take us to the next level of achievement? How does the Brazilian football team or Australian cricket team consistently manage to perform at a higher level than their opponents? Can British teams ever expect to emulate this standard?
Does it matter if the greatest runners are Ethiopian or the greatest swimmers are Australian? Should we just put aside our parochialism and celebrate the greatest sportsmen wherever they are from?
former Olympian; columnist, The Times; author, Bounce: how champions are made
sports columnist, spiked; Crystal Palace fan
novelist and sports writer; author, How to Beat the Australians
assistant comment editor, The Times
director, membership and events, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters
|Dr Tim Black editor, Spiked Review|
|Geoff Kidder director, membership and events, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters|
|recommended by spiked|