Miles Kington: How to be happy whoever wins the World Cup

It's a funny thing. Even the people who really want England to win are hesitant about putting money on them
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The Independent Online

As Wayne Rooney lies in a hospital bed, and Big Phil Scolari lies to the FA, and the FA's credibility lies in shreds, this might be a good time to remind you that in mid-February I brought you an exclusive interview with Dr Arthur Salvesen.

Because Dr Salvesen saw all this coming. He foresaw the angst that the World Cup would bring to England. It's his job to. That's because Dr Salvesen is a sports grief therapist.

He prepares people in advance for the shock of their team losing, so that when they are knocked out of a competition, or just lose a game, the trauma will be moderated, even eliminated.

He gets a lot of business from Manchester United fans (and, he hints, maybe even from a couple of Americans who own the club). He gets a lot of business from fans of relegation-threatened teams in the Premiership. Presumably, too, he gets a lot of business from Britain's Davis Cup supporters?

"No, not so," says Dr Salvesen. "Nobody needs preparing for a British tennis defeat. They were immunised against defeat years ago. Nobody expects Britain to win anything at tennis."

Not even now that Andy Murray looks so good?

"He might look good," says Dr Salvesen," but I suspect that he is developing a healthy talent for self-destruction already. To be honest, the only tennis fans I ever had in my surgery were a few who were afraid they couldn't handle a run of victories by Tim Henman, so they asked me to do pre-emptive therapy against the chance of Henman doing well. Money for old rope, of course."

When I went to see Dr Salvesen in February, I was worried about England's chances in the World Cup. Or more precisely, about the effect that another humiliating England exit would have on the supporters. This time, with less than two months to go, I wanted to know how things were hotting up.

"First, let's look on the bright side. If England are humiliated in the Cup, not everyone will be demoralised. Some people will be enriched by the experience."

Oh? Who?

"Everyone who lives in Scotland, Wales, and both parts of Ireland, for a start."

Oh. Right.

"And Englishwomen married to football supporters who would like their husbands back."

Yes. Right.

"But you are right. If and when England get knocked out of the World Cup, the country as a whole will need marriage counselling. The English still see themselves as the pioneers of football and therefore still entitled to win the top prizes. That's like Africa being the cradle of civilisation and therefore expecting to get the Nobel Prize every year. It's ridiculous. But it's true. I therefore have to talk my patients into a mature understanding of the way the world works."

That must be near impossible.

"It is. So instead, I explain to them who is really likely to win the World Cup, I explain how gambling works, and then I get them to put money on the sides I tip. Big money. Enough money to make it important to them. And it's a funny thing, you know. Even the people who really want England to win are hesitant about putting money on them.

"So then maybe England will find themselves playing a team my client has got good money on, Brazil, or Italy, or Germany perhaps, and there is a conflict. But it is a nice conflict. If England wins, they are poor but happy. If the other side wins, they are rich. And happy."

I see. Does Dr Salvesen have any thoughts on who the England coach should be?

"When was the last time England had a good coach?" counters Dr Salvesen. "It is not an English tradition to appoint the right man. Let us stick to tradition."

Right. And how will England get on in the World Cup?

"They will be beaten by Germany on penalties," he says.

In the final?

"Every match England plays seems like the final," says Dr Salvesen suavely.

And who will Dr Salvesen be putting money on?

"Me?" says a wide-eyed Dr Salvesen. "I won't even be watching. I have better things to do with my time."

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