England’s ‘but we invented it’ Fallacy of Football Defeat.
Once again we have entered a major football tournament clutching our hopes and dreams of success on the international stage to our chests, only to find ourselves, in the event, clutching at straws. Every time we enter a competition it is with our heads held high and with our ambitions plastered across the national newspapers. Then we come crawling out of it like some lame animal after some miserable defeat. Then the grumble across the lips of the nation is “and from the country that invented it”.
But we did not invent it! What sort of a remark is that?
How is it that one can claim to have invented something as basic as the kicking of a ball and running after it? These are such elementary human actions and movements that to claim an ‘invention’ over them is nonsensical. If any credit should be given for the ‘invention’ of football it should be to that great man in the sky/evolution (choose which suits you best) for providing us with joints in our legs.
What England did do is codify the rules of Football. We were the first to set down the rules on paper and implement the traditions and customs that we now have today, right from the inflation of an animal bladder in the 17th century for use as a ball, to the Victorians, who had the cheeky idea of charging spectators to watch football matches. We then told the rest of the world that this is how they were to do it.
Let’s say I was the first to write down a set of instructions and remarks on what it is to breath; you wouldn’t then accredit me with the invention of breathing, would you? If you truly invent something you have a predominance over it because either no one else has thought of, or no-one knows of your invention, or because no one understands how the invention works. Take for instance Radar, an invention of the British during WW2. Invented by Robert Watson-Watt, it was invaluable to the men who fought in the Battle of Britain. The radar allowed us to track incoming German warplanes and gave Fighter Command sufficient time to get airborne and defend against them. The Germans were puzzled as to how the British knew so early that they were on the way. That is a true invention.
Again, because the English did not invent football they do not have predominance over it – take the 4-1 thrashing by Germany if proof were ever needed. The action of kicking a ball can be learnt and mastered by any sentient being, given time and dedication.
Even if we did for one moment concede that the English invented football, then still, the reasoning that ‘The English invented football therefore every Englishman has an innate genius that soars above all others when it comes to the kicking of a ball and the running after it’ is absurd. I feel I cannot elaborate any more on this point without becoming patronising to my dear reader.
So why do we appeal to this ridiculous notion every time we crash out of every major tournament? It’s that imperial mentality; the thought that we must have a standing in the world somewhere, somehow, whether it be military or sports. It’s the kidding ourselves that we have some influence, some status in a world where, frankly – as Irish comic Dara O’Briain so aptly put it – we are about fifth in everything. It’s as though we mean to say, in a somewhat haughty manner; “Well, England were knocked out of the world cup but let’s not forget that it is because of our inventiveness that you, the rest of the world, can enjoy this beautiful game.