After millions of pounds, months of ego stroking and the recent export of our three most valuable men (in order in my opinion, David Beckham, Prince William and David Cameron), today's the day we should finally find out whether the beautiful game is coming home in 2018. And if we're disappointed will we take it on the chin?
Somehow, I doubt it. England has a certain sense of ownership when it comes to football that sees the traditional British upper lip droop, then protrude, into the sticky-out bottom lip of a toddler who didn't win pass the parcel.
You can't deny the fervour felt for football in this country – just look at the lengths our media will go to to make sure we're not being cheated out of our chance to play host. Earlier this month, two of Fifa's executive committee (Nigeria's Amos Adamu and Tahiti's Reynald Temarii) were banned from voting for after a Sunday Times exposé suggested they were up for taking bribes. And then on Monday evening, three days before the big vote, angry little journalist Andrew Jennings was seen on BBC1's Panorama, running around shouting questions about bribery and corruption at three other executive committee members.
Meanwhile, our 'three lions' as they have been dubbed by the press, have done their best to get on the charm offensive. Beckham has flashed that dazzling smile at all the right people and gone out to ruffle the hair of Zurich's schoolchildren. Prince William, as president of the FA, has lent an enviable dash of royal-ness to the bid (no-one else has sent an HRH). And Cameron, if reports are to be believed, has wined and dined Fifa's vice president Jack Warner, whose vote could mean the difference between us being in the thick of it in 2018 or watching it on TV. Not that I agree with bribery or anything, but I do hope that given our country's economic situation, he didn't suggest going dutch.
Now, it's decision time and it still appears that everything we've done might not be enough. As is so often the case when it comes to international football (sigh), England is being described as the underdog in the contest to net the biggest prize in sporting events. There seems little doubt that if we do not find ourselves celebrating later today, like a petulant child, the press will waggle fingers of blame at the BBC for wrecking our chances (despite the accused Fifa members' insistence that their ruffled feathers won't affect their decision) or at Fifa itself for being as bent as the butcher's hook Panorama hung us on.
What a shame that would be though eh? One of Prince William's arguments for having the tournament here was our sense of fair play, so you'd hope, in the event of failure, we would accept that a more deserving nation won. Having been accused by its (English) critics of being unprepared, both in its infrastructure and ("corrupt" and "racist") society as a whole, the Russian government insists that winning would be a catalyst for change – it has even promised £100bn of investment in roads, railways and stadiums. That's some promise. And the Spain/Portugal coalition has world champion status on its side, not to mention a tried and tested infrastructure in place, both countries having hosted major tournaments previously.
Economists say that if we didn't win, England would lose out on £3bn in revenue. But that's not what the fans would grieve for. Football is our national sport, it's been part of our culture for hundreds of years. Even all the irritating people who don't know the names of the England team for the first two matches because they have too much to do on Saturdays to follow the club football (yes, you caught me, people like me) would mourn the chance to have seen our country set the stage for the most exciting competition on the planet. Watching our boys in the World Cup has the power to bring the whole country together – men, women and children joined in a common goal. All the silly hats, painted faces and nylon flags are symbols of a rare unity.
If we don't get this one in the back of the net, though, we need to push our shoulders back, take a deep breath and move on. Blaming it all on a documentary, or saying it was all a fix from the start, would make us look terribly sulky. Unlike some (mentioning no names, apart from that big cheat Cristiano Ronaldo who completely deserves mentioning), we English are not known for taking dives on the pitch – so we shouldn't start taking dives off it.
By: Pip Jones
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