2022 Looms – Time for England to Up Their Game?
Witness the devastation of the Brazilian World Cup and one of the former giants – England – going home in the first round, and the huge wake-up call that it sent to teams around the world, but mostly to the English football establishment. Probably invented in ancient Greece, and certainly played in early Song Dynasty China, Football – or soccer, to differentiate from the American semi-rugby game of the same name, but with vastly different rules – really became the sport we know today with the application of Cambridge Rules in 1848. It is now the most popular game in the world with every country playing it to some extent. In addition, big league football has become big business, with top class players exchanging hands for huge sums of money, and to host the four-yearly World Cup is seen as a major sporting coup for a country. The year 2022 will see the World Cup heading to Qatar (it seems like the heat of controversy may possibly find a change of venue too) and even though it is eight years in the future, the building work and planning is already underway, fuelled by the assertion that each World Cup tournament should be better than the last.
The English team will certainly be hoping for a better tournament than the one they have just crashed out of in Brazil, but there is a fundamental problem that needs to be overcome first, and it may take the whole of those eight years to come to fruition. English football ranks alongside the Spanish and Italian versions as being a country where football is an enormous industry and there is always a scramble to obtain the best players in the world irrespective of the cost associated with them. This tends to leave teams holding a greater majority of foreign players, who return to their national teams once an international tournament like the World Cup starts, leaving the home team seriously depleted. This was the major issue with the English game at Brazil; while England has some fine players, the managers have been too intent on buying highly skilled foreign players rather than cultivating home-grown talent who would be eligible to play for England in the international series.
English Premiere football has imported players from over thirty different countries and the proportion of foreign players now stands at over 60%, leaving just forty percent of English players performing in top-line football. This stark statistic really becomes apparent when those players leave the English side to play for their own national teams in international events such as the World Cup, and exposes the low level to which English players have dropped.
There are moves by the British Football Association (FA) to find and train more English players in readiness for future tournaments, but in reality, it is unlikely that they will be in place before the Qatar event of 2022, and that would seem to be the target for the current England management. There are good domestic players who are available now and many people within the sport are calling for those to be given more chance rather than allowing large, wealthy clubs to continue spending excruciating amounts of money on the latest offering from whatever foreign team. Whether the big teams will do that, or continue chasing the money and glory in the short term rather than planning for the future remains to be seen.