Simon Kelner: Trouble finding the net? If only it had been tennis...

Kelner's view

Share

The front page of yesterday's Sun newspaper was a masterly statement of British stoicism. Superimposed on a picture of distraught English footballers after their exit from the European Championships was a headline that read: "Anyone for tennis?"

It was an attempt to put into context our sporting aspirations as a nation. All right, there was the utter heartbreak of yet another defeat in a penalty shoot-out. Yes, we'd had our growing belief in the national team crushed once again. And, true, many people will have gone to work yesterday feeling a more intense version of the Monday morning blues. But what's that against the fact that we stage an important tennis tournament? Does it matter that no one from these islands ever wins it any more? Of course not. Our source of pride is the manner in which the Wimbledon championships are presented to the world.

Full marks to the Sun for trying to cheer us up, for attempting to turn our attention away from the catastrophic (in sporting terms) events in Kiev, but I'm afraid it just doesn't wash. We just don't care about tennis. For two weeks every year, we engage with it, and affect an interest in the latest eastern European female prodigy, but, as a people, we only truly, madly, deeply care about football. Yes, even in June. The Olympic Games will grab public attention later on in the summer, but it is highly unlikely that a single event will unite the nation like a big football match.

I'm not saying that the hype and collective hysteria that increasingly attends the England football team is a healthy thing, but rarely do we have a communal experience these days.

In the modern home, there's almost always more than one television, together with multifarious media devices, and much of the time everyone is watching something different.

At least on Sunday evening, most people were watching the same thing at the same time, and experiencing the same despondent feeling, albeit to vastly different degrees.

And don't forget this was only a quarter-final. And it was the Euros, not even the World Cup.

But this wasn't just a defeat: it was an examination of our national characteristics. What is it in the British psyche that makes us so rubbish at a penalty shoot-out (this was the sixth time in a major tournament that England had suffered such calamity)? If you're paid £100,000 a week, you should be able to put the ball in the net from 12 yards, even if you're facing Spider-Man in goal.

It is a relatively mechanical act that players practise every day. But it's clearly not as simple as that. Factor in fatigue and pressure and you have a whole different set of problems, and you have to say that experience has shown we are just not mentally equipped for the job.

We are a cold-blooded, rational Northern European people: surely we're going to have more psychological strength than those passionate, instinctive Italians, what with their Latin temperament and all.

But maybe it is just the weight of national expectation that weighs so heavily on English shoulders that renders them paralysed with fear. In which case, two weeks of Wimbledon will indeed be something of a relief.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Java Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity for an ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading digital agenci...

Recruitment Genius: Supply Chain Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Advisor

£13000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A chance to work for an extreme...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Health workers of the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres take part in training  

Are we starting to see the end of Ebola? Not quite, but we're well on our way

Tom Solomon
 

I loathe the term ‘hard-working people’. It's patronising, snobbish and wrong

Simon Kelner
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea