Believe it or not, this made front page news of the main Auckland evening paper. After England dropped out of yet another competition on penalties, one journalist desperate for a headline grabbed a handful of people, took them to a park and got them to take pot-shots against a “top” New Zealand league keeper.
Of course, “top” NZ keeper equates to maybe League 2 back home, but let’s let that one slide for the moment.
Out of the five who took shots, all but a 12 year-old managed to score. One 49-year old businessman who slipped one past the keeper even said that “I don’t earn thousands of dollars a week and I could manage it easily enough. I don’t see what the pressure is. Maybe England need someone like me!” (or words to that effect – I’m quoting from memory).
Now, if this is typical of the Kiwi knowledge of the Beautiful Game then it may help explain why their national squad’s recent record reads “Played 13 Won 1 Lost 12”. Because, of course, if they’d had a 49 year-old businessman running round the pitch, dying of heart failure to disrupt the opposition, it would have made all the difference. As for “pressure”, I don’t think the better part of a billion people were watching him kick balls at a pro-am keeper.
I’m not trying to defend England’s poor record at penalties – we do need to do something about it – but there is no denying that penalties have to be one of the most horrendously tense, worrying, shit-scary experiences of a fan’s life. I can only imagine what it’s like for the person taking them. Sure, you can study and practise, but I’m sure most people remember their driving test. How easy driving seemed before you took it. No problem. Up and down the streets, roundabouts a doddle, parallel parking… easy.
Then the test. Harder, wasn’t it? In fact I know for a fact that most of you will have failed that first one. And what was the difference? Pressure. One person who wasn’t friend or family who was watching your every move. One. Imagine if there had been 500 million people watching your test.
Now you know what the difference is between penalty practise and taking one in the World Cup. And until the Kiwis learn that, they’re going to langour at the bottom of the world pile looking up at the Socceroos for some time to come.
And that’s a fucking embarassing place to be sat.