Yet another disaster
Another major footballing tournament: another abject failure. Why is it that after 44 years of misery heaped upon misery we cannot bring ourselves to analyse the basic defects within the English game which essentially begin at grassroots level?
On any given weekend a budding Lionel Messi can be found on a playing field near you playing for his local school or under-12s team. However, far from being encouraged, such youngsters are looked upon as selfish and greedy.
The call from the weekend manager, ignorant parents and spectators alike is to "get rid of it". This culture pervades our national game right through to the Premiership, by which time creativity and comfort on the ball have been coached out of the players replaced by the need to get the ball into the box as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile the powerhouses of South America continue to forge ahead, followed closely by the Germans and the Italians. The African countries are catching up fast now that they are adding organisation to their natural ability.
The foreign players who provide the essential skill and creativity to the Premiership mask the shortcomings of the English players, who look far better in their club colours than they will ever be in an England strip.
A simple definition of madness is continuing to do the same thing while expecting different results. England continues to whine about bad refereeing decisions – Maradona's handball and, for the next 50 years, the not-given goal against Germany – as if such wrongs righted would have made any difference to our plight.
Blessington, Co Wicklow, Ireland
So let the real sport begin. What we fans are truly good at is blame games and emotional blood-letting.
The truth is that we were beaten by a team, not a series of well-known personalities that are the fodder of an ever-devouring 24-hour news cycle.
Germany is not the best team, but they were a team, and out of four games we won only once. We need national football academies across the country that not only nurture football talent but also give young people realistic aspirations. We have the richest league in the world and yet we cannot get our national team to play as a team.
Now that the team called "England" has been eliminated from the World Cup, perhaps we can acknowledge what professional football really is – a branch of the entertainment industry which preys on the lack of self-worth of its fans. If the latter had lives they would not need the trumped-up tribalism of watching 11 overpaid young men kicking a ball around; if their interest was really in sport they might be out playing, or encouraging youngsters in team spirit and keeping fit.
Thank heavens for that. The BBC's laughable attempt to keep the home fires burning, using Brian Blessed spouting spittle and Shakespeare to rouse armchair punters to a state of near-hysteria, has happily bitten Auntie on her swollen, jingoistic behind.
Now that the arrogant, overpaid simpletons who make up England's football team, from the manager down, have justly received their comeuppance, it would be nice to think we'll see and hear fewer of these media ravings. Is it too much to ask that we be spared similar infantilism if Andy Murray is still in with a shout?
St Day, Cornwall
After Lampard's disallowed goal, it seemed pretty obvious from the position of the German goalkeeper that he had had a clear view of the ball over the goal-line. Surely it would have been nothing more than good sportsmanship for the goalkeeper to have informed the referee that he should award a goal to England.
Don't put all the blame on the manager for England's woeful performance, but on the continuing lack of governance and direction by the English FA. What is needed – and it is long overdue – is a root-and-branch reform of the governing body, with more emphasis on football as a sport and less as a business, with a complete separation of the two functions.
Professor Ian Blackshaw
International Sports Law Centre, The Hague
When a special school is needed
Could I offer support to the comments made by the new Member of Parliament for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, Paul Maynard ("Cerebral palsy MP urges Government to keep special schools", 28 June)?
Like Paul, I hope that men and women facing a challenge will see his example as inspirational and, in future, unexceptional.
My experience of 15 years at a special school was different from Paul's, but I did come to the same conclusion that he has reached – namely, that there should be a range of options available which meet the needs of the individual and which might require special (and in some cases, residential) provision for a period of time, as in his case of early years development.
In the special needs education legislation passed a decade ago, we set out a framework intended to get local authorities and the voluntary sector to work on a regional basis to ensure that those options were not subject to the vagaries of viability purely within one local authority area. Regrettably, those regional plans to offer choice did not achieve the range or scope intended.
I hope, like Paul Maynard, that the enormous reductions in funding which the Chancellor's Budget implies will not undermine the life chances of those for whom either specialist education or properly supported integration are vital to their independence, equality and fulfilment for the rest of their lives.
David Blunkett MP
House of Commons
Paul Maynard believes he is the first MP to have attended a special school. It should come as no surprise that so few have made it into the Commons. Research shows that children attending segregated schools are significantly less likely to enter mainstream work and progress in any career. Could it be that his progress has more to do with the fact he transferred to a mainstream education at the age of five?
The Conservative MP says he had been dismayed by the drive over two decades to integrate children with special needs into mainstream education. But the last government never fully ratified Article 24 of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which would have given every disabled child full rights to an inclusive education. As many parents of disabled children such as myself will tell you, there are still huge barriers to inclusion which remain.
Both the Conservative Party manifesto and the Coalition Government agreement pledge to "remove the bias towards inclusion" of children with special educational needs in mainstream schooling. The label of "bias" betrays the ideological position that underlies such a position. It is not "bias" routinely to include gay and lesbian children or those from ethnic minorities in mainstream education. It is not bias to routinely include disabled children in local schools either. It should be the norm. And until we accept this, and make it easier for disabled children to access and remain in mainstream education, we will continue to see few people with disabilities both inside Parliament, and in other careers outside it too.
Co-director, Ekklesia, London EC1
Royal influence on planning
In Julian Gall's rush to defend Prince Charles's intervention in the the Chelsea Barracks site (letters, 25 June) he claims that there is no democratic process for the public to have a say in the design of new buildings, and that public input is limited to objections on the grounds of numerical indicators such as site density or traffic. This is not correct.
The external visual appearance of a building is a critical factor in determining whether it will fit into its neighbourhood, and it is one of the most important subjective factors which are taken into account by councils when deciding whether to grant planning permission.
All councils accept comments and longer submissions from the public about the design, size and appropriateness of proposed buildings. Some councils allow members of the public to address the meetings of their planning committees. Residents can always assert their democratic rights to lobby councillors, planning officers and committees and indeed to seek election to councils, sometimes on single issues such as major planning applications.
If Charles wishes to get more involved in local planning, he should renounce his royal status and seek election to his local council.
I was grateful that we had Prince Charles to intervene on the development of the Chelsea Barracks site.
So many new buildings express the architects' latest fashions without a consideration for those of us who have to walk past them most days, and perhaps live near them. Architects move on and we are left to get on with it.
Although Ruth Reid, President of the Institute of British Architects, says that the Prince of Wales should not exert undemocratic influence, we do need something or someone as a counterweight to overweening architects. And are we supposed to believe that everyone in other professions never "exerts influence" by discussing matters with friends?
E J Hart
I'm a republican who started reading The Independent because we were promised no royal "stories". Why are people expressing such outrage regarding plans for the Chelsea Barracks?
The world is run on influence, including the media. I don't believe for a second that Prince Charles was the only person to object to these proposals; it is merely that royal connections, in this instance, trumped all others.
Contrary to the conclusion drawn in your leading article ("A question of influence, not aesthetics", 26 June), Prince Charles should keep meddling as much as possible. As this would ultimately lead to the abolition of the monarchy and the demise of the House of Windsor, 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished for.
Constitutional questions apart, the reservations expressed about Prince Charles's role in the Chelsea Barracks saga would be more persuasive if it could be shown (which is highly doubtful) that Modernist architects and their supporters had never relied on influence to get their schemes through.
Chichester, West Sussex
Try to imagine Sydney without the Opera House or Bilbao without the Guggenheim Museum. Now try to imagine London without Prince Charles.
St Jean de Monts, France
Egon Ronay's heroism
Paul Levy's obituary of Egon Ronay (14 June) contained a number of inaccuracies. At its core was the allegation that Ronay had a dubious war record, concealed his age in order to prevent its being discovered in the records, and was refused a British honour because of it. Pure fantasy.
In later life he concealed his age because he feared people might not want to do business with "an old man". He was called up like every young man of his age in Hungary. Far from concealing his service he volunteered it to The Evening Standard, an interview which Levy quotes.
More significantly, it's a matter of record that Ronay was offered an OBE in the early Nineties. He declined it and it was that which defeated subsequent efforts to have him recognised. A refusal is a black mark in the strange world of honours protocol.
As it happens, Ronay behaved heroically in perilous, war-torn Budapest. He was brought up a Catholic but had Jewish blood. In 1944 his uncle was denounced to the Nazis and held for deportation, destined for the gas chambers. At great risk to himself Ronay contrived himself into the deportation camp and managed to spring his uncle, spiriting him into hiding, where he survived the war.
Levy's disobliging obituary, published just two days after Egon Ronay's death, seemed to tell us as much about its author as its subject.
Women in the church
How can there be a problem with the full inclusion of women into the Church of England and on what terms they can become bishops (Ann Cryer's letter, 24 June), when the second reading in church last Sunday, was Paul's letter to the Galatians , chap. 3 verse 23?
"As many of you as were baptised into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."
What is the exception to that clear statement?
Little Baddow, Essex
Conscripted into America's wars
The sacking of General Stanley McChrystal gives the lie to the idea that the war in Afghanistan is a Nato operation. It is just one of America's wars – "On Terror" or "On Drugs" – in various parts of the world that the rest of the world appears to have been conscripted into. These wars involve extra-judicial killings, torture, immense collateral damage to civilians, illegal imprisonment and much else that has no place in a civilised world. "Hearts and minds" are not won from a people looking down the barrels of foreign guns.
Great Malvern, Worcestershire
Further to Julia Brailsford's letter (26 June), I can say that your crossword compiler is not a botanist. On several occasions I have seen the clue "conifer" with a three-letter answer. The only thing that would fit is "yew". As many a churchgoer would tell him/her yews have berries. These often fall in autumn, leaving a nasty mess on paths. The berry is a favourite item of food for blackbirds, which probably explains the seedlings I have to dig up from my garden. Otherwise, keep up the good work, compiler.
London Colney, Hertfordshire
Perspectives on musical memories
No mystic origin for Glastonbury
Rob Sharp claims in his Glastonbury Festival feature (25 June) that the first event in 1970 began "as a gathering of 1,500 travellers fresh from a visit to Stonehenge."
No it didn't. For a start, the 1970 event took place a long way from the summer solstice, on 19 September, and if there were 1,500 there then I never saw them – and I had a good view from the stage! It was a straighforward pop festival, billed as such, if a little ramshackle.
Mind you, you're not the only ones to get things wrong. According to Q magazine's recent feature, I'm the Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull. No I'm not, and they weren't there either.
Prophets of the Punk revolution
I was very impressed with David Lister's excellent overview of 1972 ("The end of the age of innocence", 16 June). It was a pivotal year in many ways, in terms of how the world changed. As he pointed out there was Munich, Bloody Sunday, Vietnam etc, but he missed one crucial point which still has a massive impact today.
In July 1972, while David Bowie and Roxy Music were capturing the hearts and minds of a generation of teenagers, a little-known band from Detroit was making its debut performance at an all-night concert in King's Cross.
Iggy and the Stooges performed that night in one of the legendary concerts of the past 40 years. Nobody had seen anything like them. At the height of his physical beauty, and dressed in silver leather jeans and silver hair, Iggy laid the template for punk rock , with songs and an astonishing stage act which rattled the tiny London hippie audience.
John Lydon and Mick Jones were there and went on to be notable figures in their own right, as a direct result of witnessing Iggy.
The group went on to record Raw Power, which was an epic failure at the time, but history has vindicated both the band and the music.
In 2010, Iggy and the Stooges played two sellout concerts in Hammersmith to wild audiences that spanned all generations. The band perceived as least likely to get anywhere the early 1970s have had the last laugh.
Huntingdon, CambridgeshireReuse content