Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"You say you want a revolution, well you know - we all want to change the world..."

AMID the English civil war and the French revolution, an strange harmony reigns in the Dutch camp this tournament – so far.
Perhaps it’s all down to coach Bert van Marwijk giving impromptu performances on the piano in their team hotel’s lobby.
Or maybe they’re picking up feelgood vibes from their HQ’s location in central Johannesburg, near the exuberant heart of this World Cup’s capital city.
Van Marwijk expressly wanted his players to really feel - to use a 2010 World Cup buzzword – if not the full-throated ‘Ayoba’, or exhiliration, of the event then certainly a flavour of real-life South Africa.
Some of Spain’s players have even been spotted doing their own shopping in stores beside their base in Potchefstroom, near Johannesburg – about as close to ‘slumming it’ as today’s superstars get.
Meanwhile, England’s incredible sulks stew in not-so-splendid isolation at their aristocratic Rustenburg pad, miles and miles of scorched and unspectacular velde away from the major cities.
The daily routine of ‘breakfast, training, lunch, bed, dinner, bed’ sound quite enviable, up to a point.
Wayne Rooney's grumble also calls to mind the exasperated complaint of Wilfred Brambell, when stuck with earlier Scousers in Beatle film A Hard Day’s Night: ‘So far I’ve been in a car and a room, and a train and a room, and a room and a room.’
Whatever the company, though, being cooped up in what Steven Gerrard has described as ‘five-star prison’ - even for five (fingers crossed) weeks - seems a scant enough sacrifice, and par for the World Cup course.
Bryan Robson, injury-prone as ever, developed blisters to become all-England (squad) Pacman champ as they languished behind armed guard, for fear of Basque separatist attack in Bilbao, back in 1982.
Simply calling up Jimmy Bullard and his ukulele – or a few Rustenburg neighbours toting vuvuzelas - would hardly guarantee a future as bright as the Oranje’s so far appears.
Nor does van Marwijk, like Capello, ever resemble a ray of sunshine himself, though both cantered through qualifiers before Capello’s sternness supposedly turned from asset to obstacle.
Meanwhile only a few flashes of pizzazz from still cruise-controlling Ballon d’Or contender Wesley Sneijder have lifted some Dutch displays almost as flat as Holland itself.
But without hitting the peaks, they at least know they’re sticking around in town for now.
A simple England victory today could mean the players’ hours suddenly start flying by – if not necessarily singing, then winning’s a handy counter-revolutionary tactic.

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