Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St David's Day?

What are we now, 92 or 93 days out from the World Cup?

If this week's hysteria over David Beckham's injury is anything to go by then we can rest assured that the English media is gearing up for another mammoth bout of hype, triumphalism and, ultimately, retribution and recrimination this summer.

What joy for those of us looking on across Hadrian's Wall.

Do I want England to win the World Cup? No. Will I be kissing my "Anybody But England" t-shirt and leaping to my feet in celebration when they lose? No. Will I be trying to avoid all contact with the English media and watching their games with the sound down? Most definitely yes.

In fact I'm fairly numb to the whole thing. This is the third time England will have played in the World Cup when we've been sat at home. That's a more depressing thought for me than how England will fare. (My prediction incidentally would be semi finals, although a drunken wager made in a Krakow pub would see me take home a few quid if Capello can somehow get past their deficiencies and win the thing.)

But for Beckham, without all the hype, I feel sympathy. Despite all the trappings of fame and the madness that surrounds him, here was a guy simply trying his hardest to get on that flight to South Africa. And Beckham, perhaps one of the most famous men on the planet, would have gone on that plane and not complained if his involvement was to amount to nothing more than five minutes in a group game.

I think that suggests a certain honourable commitment to his country. Despite it all he never forgot the kid dreaming of playing for his country. Despite it all the power of football still invaded his dreams.

Running the normal gauntlet of compliments and criticism, the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy saw fit to pen a few lines on Beckham's snapped tendon. Trivialisng the position by dabbling in the celebrity culture? Or reacting to an event that appeared to have the whole nation talking and attempting to make both her role and poetry relevant to a much wider section of society? I'd go for the latter but maybe I'm just a romantic old fool. Anyway nice to see somebody having a go at mixing football with poetry.

Achilles, by Carol Ann Duffy

Myth's river — where his mother dipped him, fished him, a slippery
golden boy flowed on, his name on its lips.

Without him, it was prophesised, they would not take Troy.

Women hid him, concealed him in girls' sarongs; days of
sweetmeats, spices, silver songs...

But when Odysseus came, with an athlete's build, a sword and a
shield, he followed him to the battlefield, the crowd's roar,

And it was sport, not war, his charmed foot on the ball...

But then his heel, his heel, his heel...