Creativity 1 England 0


June 23, 2014

As I clambered down the ladder at the front of my house, with the flag of St. George awkwardly wedged beneath my non-rung-clasping arm, I pondered how we were yet again feeling despondent over how unsuccessfully our national team play our national game.

My pondering’s obviously covered all the usual areas: too many foreign players in our top division, the selling off of school playing fields, overpaid prima donnas who lack of passion for the three lions on our shirt, children more interested in the X-box than the penalty box and so on. And yet, certainly when considered relative to other fairly successful nations, none of this truly stacks up. German kids play console games. Brazilian kids undoubtedly lack playing fields. And Italian footballers certainly don’t lack in the wages department.

It was as I watched a random World Cup match that the idea of national psyches and identities came to mind; the Germans are good because as a nation they are organised and efficient, the Spanish because they have outdoor and athletic lives, the Brazilians free-spirited and energetic, the Dutch naturally individualistic and confident, the Italians relaxed and patient, etc., etc.

So what are the English good at? What are our strengths? What defines us as a people? Well, we’re creative I guess. We do our creating through instinct and emotion. From the heart not the head. You won’t find the world driving our cars, but you’re sure to hear them singing our pop songs. No-one’s clambering for our manufacturing, but they’re watching our movies. No-one wants us to run energy companies (the French run ours) but plenty want us to design their clothes. We lead in design, film-making, architecture, pop music, poetry, advertising, innovation, writing, acting, performing (you get the picture).

All the things we truly excel at require us to think instinctively, creatively and intuitively. The very things we probably need to somehow do less of in tournament football. Often, after qualifying smoothly in a less pressurised environment, we arrive at a tournament faced with succeed or fail situations. Asked to be calculating, ruthless, pragmatic and efficient, our natural urge to do exactly the opposite in every situation means we stutter and falter. And maybe that’s just the way we are. Maybe we should focus on the great stuff we do so well and accept that some things just aren’t for us.

We’re English. We think outside the box. We’re no good in it. Just ask our strikers.

by Damian Smith

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