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The beautiful game – our boys are too

PUBLISHED: 17:42 19 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:03 22 October 2010

The World Cup - you can't avoid it. And I'm proud to say I don't particularly want to.

I won't even pretend to know who all the players are, even in the England team, but I do understand the offside rule and as you read this column I'll be working out which pub to go and watch tomorrow's clash with Sweden.

The World Cup - you can't avoid it. And I'm proud to say I don't particularly want to.

I won't even pretend to know who all the players are, even in the England team, but I do understand the offside rule and as you read this column I'll be working out which pub to go and watch tomorrow's clash with Sweden.

Like all those fairweather supporters who'd normally turn their nose up at baking in synthetic fabric in the heat of summer, I'll probably be among all the shiny England shirts and St George Crosses, sinking lager with the best of them and shouting at the top of my lungs.

But as I write, the first two games I've watched have - dare I say it - lacked a certain something.

I was impressed by John Terry's acrobatics and Stevie G's thumping left-footer but something is definitely amiss and I've been struggling to put my finger on it.

I know we're only in the opening games, and many of the players will be bolstering themselves for the final 16.

But come on, lads, where is the hunger, the passion and grit?

I even find myself reluctantly agreeing with singer Sandi Thom and a line in her nauseating chart-topper I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker.

In reeling off a list of long-gone images from the good old days, she notices that "footballers still had long hair and dirt across their face".

So many of our players look like they've stepped out of the window of Burtons (true in Michael Owen's case). They're polished, preened, tanned and manicured like pop stars, and model-cum-footballer Beckham even puts a little plaster on his precious diamond earring.

If one of them got so much as a grass stain on his immaculate shirt, he'd probably be signed up for a washing powder commercial.

These last few World Cups are for the Heat magazine generation. Many of us, I'm sure, recognise a handful of players from buying celeb mags full of their wives' laden with designer shopping bags, or of them showing off their newborns and OTT homes.

Never mind kicking a ball about - these men are uber-privileged, weighed down with disgusting amounts of cash reaped from sponsorship and advertising, let alone their players' salaries.

So when several England players whimpered about the lack of water at the Paraguay game, were we really surprised?

These men could have anything they want - so why on earth would they slug their guts out in the searing heat for a few thousand pounds?

Back in 1966, and lest we forget that glorious, victorious year, the footballers and their families seemed much more down to earth and had a pretty ordinary private life when they walked out on to the hallowed turf at Wembley.

So, if today's boys are going to be in with a shout, maybe they should take a leaf out of their book.

Ditch the pandering, the diamond earrings, magazine deals, the extravagant parties and do your country proud.


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