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Games Make Us Rubbish at Football

Article: Can games really be blamed for England's poor performance?

West Ham goal keeper Rob Green has blamed the country's gaming habits for England's football defeat against Croatia last week, which saw them fail to qualify for the Euro 2008 tournament. But is there method in his madness?

The keeper, who had his own goalie blunder against Spurs at the weekend, told the Metro newspaper, "I think we would have the best team if we could go into every household and throw away every PlayStation, Xbox and video game." (But the Wii's can stay, obviously).

"Other countries seem to bring on world class players, countries like Brazil and Argentina where, often, it's football or nothing. In contrast, we live in a country where we have choices, and perhaps the will to do it and the need to escape from situations you're in are not so clear."

We see his point there. Italy, France, Germany and other European countries don't have videogames do they and they've been showing us up in footy for over 40 years. That must be the reason then.

Sarcasm aside, Green's comments blatantly whiff of ignorance but it's undeniable that kids are playing less football today.

We're sure games play a part, but so does weather, the mass-closing of parks, the even higher climate of fear for unsupervised kids, the FA's lack of time for anyone under 16 and the good old smoking-drugs-round-the-back-of -Tesco-culture. Isn't the cost of going to see a Premiership the same as a game thesedays?

Then of course you've got all those other forms of media that even Rob Green might've heard of, such as films, music and television. Blaming games entirely is a bit unfair.

But the West Ham keeper isn't alone in football pointing the finger at games; Portsmouth FC boss (and former Hammers chief) Harry Redknapp said earlier this year that "Xbox culture" was killing British football and said it's becoming harder and harder to find good "home-grown" talent.

He says nothing about the FA's incompetence or how shockingly overpaid footballers are, of course, but he does at least make a more thoughtful argument than Green's knee jerk:

"It may sound old and corny but when I was growing up, working class lads like me in the East End lived and breathed football," Redknapp wrote in his newspaper column. "Now I rarely see a kickabout in the park. All I see are the dazzling lights of bedroom windows from the glare of TVs and computers. It seems football cannot compete with an Xbox.

"I'm fed up with managers being made scapegoats for the state of our domestic game," he continued. "The English working class is turning its back on football - and that is not my fault.

"I do have a lot of foreign players at Portsmouth but believe me I'd love nothing more than to field a team of 11 so-called 'home-grown' lads born within the city limits. But it has become harder and harder to find enough kids of the kind of quality required to make the grade without buying an air ticket."

Is that Xbox culture or Burger King culture?

Britain's kids are more unhealthy than ever (which in itself is also often blamed on videogames) and it's never been easier to live from the edge of the couch.

Technology will make the lazy lifestyle even more attractive in the future, so it's not entirely surprising that there are less kids in the park in an age when we can do our weekly shopping on the internet.

Then again some kids might just prefer a virtual stadium to a tiny park kick about. Ten, 20 years ago little nippers would have to run around the park re-enacting their favourite footy star's goals. What role do parents play here too?

Now they can play as Beckham, Rooney or Gerard in a stadium of virtual cheering fans without leaving the living room. Wouldn't we have done the same if we had the option?

Either way, no one can argue that real football and a game of PES are anything like the same thing. Threaten the England team's next Hello photo shoot and we're sure they'll develop some more hunger for the game.