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Summer of Sport – a learning experience

PUBLISHED: 13:06 16 July 2018 | UPDATED: 13:06 16 July 2018

Beer flies in the air as fans celebrate Kieran Trippier's goal in  World Cup semi-final. Picture: IPSWICH TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB

Beer flies in the air as fans celebrate Kieran Trippier's goal in World Cup semi-final. Picture: IPSWICH TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB

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World Cup: over. Now we can reflect on what we’ve learned.

England celebrate after winning the penalty shoot-out against Colombia. Picture: OWEN HUMPHREYS/PA WIREEngland celebrate after winning the penalty shoot-out against Colombia. Picture: OWEN HUMPHREYS/PA WIRE

A great many people have avidly watched England’s progress to the semi-finals of the World up and the last month of football has been an education. So what might we have learned from all this sporting activity (largely watched from the armchair or with similar-minded people at the pub)?

• VAR is the same as the charade for “television”

The Video Assistant Referee, an oblong drawn in the air by the match referees, made a number of telling interventions and, as far as I could tell, it simply shifted the age old vilification: “The ref got it wrong” to the VAR. It just goes to show there is no such thing as definitive when it comes to football.

• It’s all about the team

The Video Assistant Referee made its presence felt. Picture: GARETH FULLER/PA WIREThe Video Assistant Referee made its presence felt. Picture: GARETH FULLER/PA WIRE

This was the England mantra for 2018 but lets be realistic, glory and blame are never, truly divided equally. Plaudits have gone to some and not others although it was nice to see some unaccustomed altruism and sports philosophy in operation.

• Don’t stand next to beer drinker when watching an England game

Some may consider that the behaviour of fans watching England’s games at large venues in the knock-out stages of the World Cup to have been outrageous... wasting all that beer. Many people take a dim view of throwing your drinks around. If you do happen to find yourself at one of these giant-screen events, try to stand next to people who are drinking water. You will get wet if England score, but you won’t get sticky.

• There are people who don’t watch football

Fun-packed Alan Shearer... who knew? Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYFun-packed Alan Shearer... who knew? Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

It’s hard to believe but there are actually people – nice people – who have no interest whatever in football and are consistent in this through the league football season, the FA Cup, the Champions League, The Euros and The World Cup. They would rather read a book, walk the dog, go to see a show, do an online grocery order... anything rather watch football.

• Alan Shearer - who knew he could be such a wag? (That’s wag as in joker)

If you’d asked me six weeks ago about Alan Shearer I would have suggested he was a bit dull and that his punditry tended towards the (sorry, Mr Shearer) boring... mostly in its delivery. But who was this new Shearer that emerged over the course of the World Cup? Did someone feed him after midnight? Suddenly, he was the all-singing, all-joking, England fan-of-fans. He also showed us another use for a breadstick when he used it as a microphone in his rendition of Football’s Coming Home.

• The visit of the President of the United States was very much an also-ran in the news... at least until England got knocked out.

breadsticks for microphones.... Picture: JIRKAEJC/GETTY/iSTOCKPHOTObreadsticks for microphones.... Picture: JIRKAEJC/GETTY/iSTOCKPHOTO

• In the 21st century Sport is one of the few acceptable ways to demonstrate national pride

By this, I do not mean jingoism. But, during international competition, it seems to be all right to support your national sports teams in ways, perhaps, that are not so acceptable outside competitive arenas. For example, painting your face with the flag of St George is okay in football stadia, not so much at the Last Night of the Proms.

• That you don’t need to know anything about football to be an expert

The World Cup always breeds an amateur punditry based on commentators’ observations, what Gary Lineker says, the prevailing view at work the morning after an England and whether or not it should have been a penalty, taking into account the VAR re-run of the alleged incident. You have put some of the blame on to the internet because I strongly suspect that a friend of mine who has shown no previous predilection for soccer, has been looking up the offside rule on Google.

• Football’s Coming Home...

It doesn’t actually mean football’s coming home as in hosting a large tournament, nor does it mean bringing home the Jules Rimet trophy, I understand. It just means that we were having a great time watching England play well at last and it was fun to sing a song about it... with or without breadsticks (see Alan Shearer above).

• We no longer have to hide in a cupboard during an England penalty shoot out

No, we do not need to cast a magic spell to get the England team through a World Cup penalty shoot out. With the right mind-set and a manager in a waistcoat we can outclass the opposition. England fans can come out from behind the sofa and relax... well, maybe not relax.

Roll on Qatar, 2022.

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