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‘FIFA’ and Sweaty Goals are the Rot at the Roots of English Football

The youth of today would rather look slick than just stick it in, which isn't how the beautiful game should be played, is it?

A screen shot from 'FIFA 15', likely to make Liverpool fans heavy hearted by the time the 15/16 season kicks off

England supporters have suffered plenty. I lived through the pain of seeing Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle miss their penalties during Italia '90. I suffered regular sights of Des Lynam's moustache, and bore witness to the very real horror of Gary Lineker doing his business on the pitch, rather than in adverts for crisps. But several years from now, when my kids are playing for England in their own semi-final against the Germans, it might not be a skied spot kick that costs us a shot at glory in the final. It could easily be EA Sports' FIFA (Soccer) series.


Picture the scene: it's raining heavily, and you're watching two under-tens teams playing on your Sunday off. It's nil-nil and you're getting colder. Then, the team you're there for sparks into life thanks to the speedy forward. He's beaten the last defender, but the keeper is quick off his line and he's on him.

Luckily, his strike partner has kept up, and is there for the easy ball. He just has to square it to him.

He just has to square it.

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Instead of getting the basics right, they're trying to spray Gerrard-style raking passes out wide (and having just as much of a success rate as he does), or slicing across the outside of the ball, resulting in a pea-roller pass to nobody, and putting pressure on their team. And that's the biggest problem: it's all good fun until it costs you a game. It seems to be slowly being forgotten that football is a team game. There will always be individual players who are brilliant, but the marvel of a crunching (but fair) tackle from a hardy defender, or the midfielder who does the simple things well is being replaced by step-overs and shots from the halfway line.

FIFA has even permeated into the language and discussions of young players. The game's Ultimate Team mode is so popular that they're creating their dream teams and asking questions about what their own FUT card will look like. They're being told by a game who the legends of the sport are, instead of seeing what makes these players so special through their actual actions on the field. Who's better: Ronaldo or Messi? Well, Gary Lineker (shave the goatee, by the way, Gary) has a legend card, so he's better than both, obviously. (Now, no children should think that Lineker is better than Messi, and if yours do, you've failed them.)


Will EA's football game and its widespread presence on YouTube really be culpable when England crash out of the next five world cups, before FIFA as an organisation collapses under the weight of its own alleged corruption? Of course not. Don't be ridiculous. But if nothing else, this article has at least briefly taken your mind off the crushing depression that comes with following a national team that does, well, nothing, really. We show up at a tournament, and then we go home again. The future is worrying for England, and apathy reigns supreme these days. The excitement that followed the team in 1990 feels long gone – but hey, at least we don't have to watch Jimmy Hill on TV any more, right?


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