So, there’s a fair dollop of doom and gloom around at the moment, which on top of the stellar British summer we’re all experiencing means a good distraction is what’s needed.
And the Women’s World Cup - or the Coupe du Monde Feminine de la FIFA if we want to go all international, does it for me. But not everyone - there’s still a lot of prejudice around against the women game.
I can understand those who say that’s it’s not a patch on the men’s, and it isn’t, but it’s got the excitement, emotion, passion and drama of a major tournament, and England are still in it - and that’s more than enough for me.
Some people say that it’s not as skillful as the men’s game and it obviously isn’t – even someone like me who really knows very little about football can see that. But men have been at this for about 150 years, so I think we need to cut the women some slack, whilst admitting that the overall level is improving quickly and that the top players are very impressive indeed.
It’s also criticised as not been as fast or physical as the men’s game. Well, biologically, men are stronger and faster than women generally speaking – look at comparable Olympic records for men and women. But aren’t we in danger of not comparing like with like here?
The Nigerian players in this World Cup have speed to burn, as do many others, and as long as we judge them against their peers then we get a legitimate comparison, otherwise it’s a bit meaningless.
The women’s game is developing – fast. It’s possibly not ready for a Nations League just yet, but make no mistake, this is a proper World Cup and I’m loving it.
And, there are other differences between the men’s and women’s game that are less argumentative. For a start there’s a lot more hair and a lot less tattoos in the women’s game, they don’t seem to foul as much as the men, nor play-act so much, the managers don’t harangue the fourth official, the fans haven’t got paralytic and taken on the police downtown, there’s no band - thank the Lord - and we’ve got little Neville in a waistcoat. Someone really should really tell him it’s been done before though.
But there was one thing bothering me about the women’s game, some subtle difference to the men’s that I couldn’t put my finger on, and then it came to me. I was watching the France-Norway match and the French winger made a 40 yard sprint down the line, put in a decent cross, and as the camera closed in on her it hit me what I was missing.
They don’t spit. Any of them, at all, ever.
As opposed to the men who do it all the time. When they’re coming on, when they’re going off, when they’re hot, when they’re angry, when they’re tired - we’re so indoctrinated into seeing the men hockling right, left and centre it doesn’t really register but now that I’m aware of the ladies alternative, I really notice it. It’s good, and it sets a better example.
So, when the coral reefs have started regenerating at an unprecedented rate, the air is fit to breath in major cities, the ice caps have re-frozen, the last plastic shopping bag floating in the ocean is a far and distant memory and climate has stabilised at a safe level for all... I shall turn my attention to eradicating spitting in the men’s game, but don’t hold your breath.
Of course the tournament has had its talking points - the US demolition of Thailand for instance. You could see it wasn’t going to end well when the Thai team couldn’t get the handshakes right at the start of the game. I think the Yanks were two-nil up when I went to get something out of the fridge, and by the time I got back they’d scored four more goals. One to avoid for England hopefully – until the final.
VAR of course continues to frustrate and confuse, especially when it comes to the handball rule. And amongst a whole raft of new rules being tried in this tournament, there’s a new handball rule just to clarify exactly where we stand.
It states that a free kick will result if:
... the ball touches a players hand/arm which has made their body unnaturally bigger.
How can your hand/arm make your body unnaturally bigger?
Unless you’re wearing a large foam finger and waving it around in time to ‘I will always love you’, surely your arm is part of you, which means whatever you do with it is natural?
Most would agree it’s pretty unnatural to try and play football with your arms behind your back, which is what the players have to do if they don’t want to fall foul of the new interpretation - which is stupidity itself. The problem is in the wording which means it’s open to personal interpretation, and is exactly what it should be getting away from.
All this new rule has done is establish the need to have another rule explaining how it works, which hasn’t helped anyone, least of all Scotland who fell foul of it about seven minutes into their game with England.
Talking of fouls, whenever a substitution is made they now give stats on the player coming off. So one for instance read ‘Distance 8km. Fouls suffered 4’. What’s all that about? She must’ve been a defender because when a striker was taken off it read ‘Distance’ and ‘Shots on target’.
But ‘Fouls Suffered’ - is that an accurate measure of a players contribution to the game? I mean what else could they include in the info package – star sign, hobbies? ‘And the left back is coming off, she’s a Capricorn and likes walking her dog’.
And she probably doesn’t suffer fouls gladly.
Meanwhile Gareth Southgate, who may possibly be Little Neville’s dad, has ruled himself out the running for the Chelsea job stating (again) that he wants to ‘concentrate on the Euros next summer’. But how do we know we’re going to be in the Euros next summer?
Hasn’t half the country just stuck two fingers up at Europe and told it go and do one? And if we’ve learned anything from our Eurovision experiences, we weren’t top of their party list before.
So when the Tories have finished picking their next leader, and they get around the negotiating table with Brussels, I wouldn’t bet the house on anything happening as expected.