The Bloke, June 3: You know how England are rubbish at World Cups? That’s my fault, that is

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OK, I hold my hands up. It’s all my fault. The Hand of God, Gazza’s tears, Emile Heskey in general – I did all that.

OK, I hold my hands up. It’s all my fault. The Hand of God, Gazza’s tears, Emile Heskey in general – I did all that.

I’m not normally a superstitious person. Well, apart from always putting my right shoe on before the left, saluting magpies and insisting on my car’s temperature control being on an even number – but everyone does that, right?

But that all changes when England are at a major football tournament.

It dates back to the first World Cup I can remember with any great clarity – Mexico ‘86.

A Gary Lineker-inspired England were in the quarter finals and holding their own against the might of Maradona’s Argentina.

At half time, Gary himself popped on to our screens to tell us to keep watching ITV (ironic given the wedge he pockets from the Beeb these days) and a lightbulb switched on in my head.

The reason England were doing well, I realised, was because I had decided to watch the game on ITV rather than the BBC, who were also showing it live.

If I just kept it on this channel, we would not only beat Argentina but probably win the whole thing.
 My mum, however, had other ideas.

“Can we put it on BBC1 please?” she had said when she walked in shortly after Gary’s appearance.

“Er, but Gary Lineker said...”

“BBC1 please,” she had insisted. And we all know what happened next.

At Italia ‘90 my good luck rituals were fatally undermined by having to appear in a school play on the night of the Germany game, leading directly to the agony of that penalty shoot-out.

For Euro ‘96 I watched England on my university housemate’s tiny portable which had ITV tuned to channel 1 (he insisted it was in fact an ‘I’ for ITV) and they duly blitzed Holland and sneaked past Spain.

Then university finished and I found myself on holiday with my family, watching the semi-final in a hotel room in Cornwall on a TV with the ITV tuned to channel 3. It was always going to end badly.

For France ‘98 I ate fish, chips and curry sauce for every England game – and it was working. Then the local chippy ran out of curry sauce for the Argentina match. Michael Owen’s wonder goal gave me hope it wasn’t a factor, but it was.
 Since then I haven’t really had a routine to speak of, which is even worse than breaking a routine that’s working.

So I’d just like to say sorry. Sorry for Beckham’s sending off, sorry for all those penalty shoot-out misses and sorry, most of all, for the last World Cup in its entirety.

This time the plan is stay at home, eating fish, chips and curry sauce, whlle watching the game on ITV on a TV that has got that channel tuned to channel 1.

If England fail dismally again, you’ll know something has gone wrong. After all, it’s the only rational explanation.

Boris Becker.

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