Robin Scott-Elliot: Two wars and one world cup make for an identity crisis

View From The Sofa: Can England Win the World Cup?/Is Professionalism Killing Sport? BBC 2

There has been a lot of worrying going on at the BBC last week, not quite as much as among archivists at Sky as they scramble around for old golf footage, but plenty to ponder nonetheless. There's been the issue of strikers – the English don't have enough, according to Jose Mourinho, although he may have been talking about Emile Heskey rather than people concerned about pensions. Gary Lineker is worried about English football and wants to find out why his country is rubbish.

Actually, not absolutely rubbish just a bit rubbish – a few months on from South Africa and the painkiller that is the Premier League is kicking in. The programme had a working title of "Why are England so Bad?", but as the men in white have set off on another all-conquering qualifying campaign it was diluted, which is the problem with English football according to some big names.

There are too many foreign players in the key positions at the top English clubs said Mourinho, ever an engagingly knowledgeable talker about the game. Johan Cruyff also suggested too many foreigners is the issue. Jürgen Klinsmann, who now resembles a New Age self-help guru with his mittel-Atlantic accent and sunshine lifestyle, took a slightly different tack.

According to Klinsmann, German success stems from national identity. "What is Germany?" he pondered. "It is a country that likes to attack, unfortunately twice in the wrong way in the last century." He appears to be suggesting that if England wasn't a nation of shopkeepers and could just start a few more wars then international footballing success can follow.

Lineker has become a slick and adept presenter and this programme demonstrated he is also an able, or well-briefed, interviewer. It was good of him to spend time worrying on behalf of the nation, what with it being Ryder Cup weekend when any cries of "get in the hole" echoing around the Match of the Day studio may not be aimed at someone slotting into that hard-to-mark position behind the main striker.

Ed Smith, the former England cricketer turned leader writer for The Times (what do you reckon, Freddie?), had done his worrying earlier in the week. Smith's concern is that sport has become too professional and nobody is having fun any more. Smith decided to talk to Colin Montgomerie about it, using the Ryder Cup as an example of one of the last bastions of amateurism in view of the fact that some of the best-rewarded sportsmen on the planet play in it for nothing but a pair of non-waterproof waterproofs.

Montgomerie has developed that style of strained smile Tony Blair deploys in an effort to convince people of his sincerity but instead has the hairs on the back of your neck making a dash for it. But he put on his thoughtful face, like a cartoon bloodhound wondering where the villain went, when Smith posed the question: do you need to have fun to succeed in sport?

"If you go to work at a widget factory," suggested Monty, "and enjoy making those widgets and take pride in making those widgets, you will be a very good widget maker." Which is just the problem Klinsmann identified – we need to make war, not widgets, if we want to win the World Cup. But try saying that in a German accent.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable