The England football team will never win a World CupTM (that one’s for you Mr Blatter) when they have to play in temperatures above 30oc. An audacious claim, you may say, especially given our recent unstoppable form in the European qualifiers.
Glossing over the fact that my Dad’s Saturday football team would probably present a sterner test than San Marino (I’ve seen punches thrown on the hallowed turf of Wandsworth common) I am actually basing this claim on some personal experience. Several times in the past few years I have contrived to talk myself onto a football pitch in a foreign country. The first time was in a sweltering 35oc degree Beijing for an expat team against a local government outfit. Our squad, comprising mainly of Englishmen, sweated and strained in vain in the oppressive heat and were dispatched 6-1.
The second occasion was just a few weeks ago, in a rather different setting. 200km into the heart of a million year old rainforest in the Danum Valley, Borneo lie three sites: a research centre occupied solely by rather glum looking scientists, a set of lodges to explore from and stay at and a neatly maintained if slightly bobbly football pitch. Upon discovering the pitch during my stay at the lodge, I at once again managed to blag myself a game, convincing the locals that my height advantage would make me a handy asset to one of their teams. With my brother and a couple of other keen foreigners in tow we trotted off to the pitch and with ample time to spare began our usual pre-match warmup. We were blowing within minutes. Once again the 30oc temperature, combined with the extreme jungle humidity, was a burden we just couldn’t seem to rid ourselves of; like a niggling injury, it was ever-present. Determined to press on we began the match in earnest anyway but the result was inevitable. Another 6-1 drubbing, mirroring the result in Beijing.
I won’t try to attempt to claim that my level of conditioning is akin to that of our English stars, but I do play all of my football in England, just like them. Simply put, my argument is that you can’t adapt to the kind of temperatures that England would be facing in hot foreign countries in the amount of time they’re given.
Which leads me back to my opening point. No wonder the FA is so keen to get the World CupTM kicked out of Qatar. For all their attempted self-positioning as paragons of political and sporting virtue, I can’t see the FA continuing to justify their current budget if the English team experiences another international embarrassment. Hold the tournament in Iceland, I say: they’ve got about as much footballing pedigree as the Qatari’s (so the location will keep FIFA happy) and we might actually win something if everyone else is frozen…