Robin Scott-Elliot: Relentless, robotic Germany show men how it's done

View From The Sofa: Women's Football/Football Behind Bars, BBC 2/Sky 1
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The Independent Online

Football, Ian Wright likes to point out, is a man's game. But then he's probably never met the German women's team, who collect trophies with an alacrity that makes their men resemble an underachieving, rabble racked by a declining sense of their worth, like France in other words.

The French, in the guise of Michel Platini, were confined to a watching brief as England and Germany met in the European Championship final on BBC 2. But there was to be no keeping Platini, who is metamorphosing from one of the greatest midfielders ever into a Blatterclone, out of the action. "He's kissing them all," said an alarmed Lucy Ward, the Beeb's summariser as the Germans filed up to collect the trophy. "That's the French way," advised Guy Mowbray. The winners had to make their way down a row of portly males, all anxious for a kiss, which is not something you see when it comes to the men's game, except of course when the French are involved.

The Beeb gave the final the full monty, even letting Martin Keown loose in daylight. Keown, a man who shouldn't be challenged to a staring contest as he doesn't appear to blink, was impressed by the game. With coverage of women's football previously focused largely on the domestic cup final, it was illuminating to see the sport played at the highest level, even though there was probably a bloke called Tom in every office around the country claiming that he could get in the women's team.

As the studio picked over the pieces, someone mentioned the Golden Generation. This whole generation game is confusing. England's men have had a golden generation of their own for what seems like eras. They have faced – and failed – their last chance on numerous occasions, yet next summer they're off to South Africa to win the World Cup. The old East Germany, where sportsmen were men and so were the women (which would have pleased Wrighty) would have known what to do about this. They'd have packed both GGs off to a hideaway in the woods outside Thuringia to create an über-golden generation, or UGG. The only question would have been whether to match left-back with left-back, or try something more ambitious and cross a centre-half with a creative midfielder in the hope of producing the new Franz Beckenbauer, although you run the risk of ending up with the new Tom Huddlestone.

Wright was attempting a bit of social engineering of his own in Football Behind Bars. He was "tasked with creating the UK's first prison football academy in just 16 weeks", no doubt because Sky One has a new series of "Cops do the stupidest things" starting in 17 weeks.

Wright, we were told, has a "reputation for outspoken self-belief on everything from football to the financial crisis". We were never allowed to hear Wright's thoughts on the recession, although he is clearly doing his bit for Britain's milliners to judge by his ever-changing headgear. As a pundit, Wright is best avoided, but this was his kind of thing.

Off he went to Portland Young Offenders Institute, a terrifying place that appears little changed since the days of Scum. Wright's aim is to take 22 youngsters and through football instil something to stop them re-offending. It may be another reality programme but it has worth, and in Wright it has a man who seems to care. He had to cull the trialists down to the final 22 and walked off in tears afterwards contemplating, perhaps, a generation game that does matter.

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