Saka love, Kane chemistry and a Mount detractor…

The chemistry of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka love and some guy still not getting Mason Mount feature in the Mailbox.

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An ode to the Nations League
For all the detractors of the Nations League this is why the competition is a good thing. The meaningless friendlies are mostly gone, playing regularly against quality opposition helps sharpen up International games and the players showed this by dismantling opposition that would have frustrated them across multiple World Cups in the best opening England performance since Spain 82. The drop down in the Nations League will still provide enough competition to keep the players sharp between tournaments. Not loving this World Cup, not loving the host nation but loving the fact that England aren’t stodgy at the start even it probably still won’t come home


Three Lions on a sleigh
A very convincing and confidence boosting win in our opening match of a tournament; it all felt weirdly easy (in line with all of the weirdness that goes with this World Cup).

The clamour will feel appeased with the attacking 4-3-3 formation, I still feel that we’ll go to a 5-3-2 in the knockout stages (should we get there) if not before, which we need to do in my opinion. It’s exciting to watch but so were Keegan’s entertainers and they won nothing.

The last minute penalty decision had my eyes rolling more than a post coitus Mick Jagger after copious amounts of recreational chemicals. Our old friend VAR; questions around consistency need to be asked, you can sort of understand inconsistency between different matches with different VAR’s, in the same match however for VAR not to intercede on the Maguire incident in the first half but do so for a bit of shirt pulling by Stones for the Iran penalty? Inconsequential in this instance but if similar was to happen in a knockout match piss would be boiled.

Great start though, 3 lions on a sleigh and all that…
Brian (it is all really weird and difficult to compartmentalise isn’t it!) BRFC


READ MORE: England disperse some of the grey clouds at home by hitting Iran for six in World Cup opener


More chemistry than Kane and Sterling
I’m sure there will be lots of discussion on the England game, and rightly so – for all the very justifiable criticism of this tournament, it is still a World Cup and like a lot of others (I assume), I still intend to enjoy it as much as possible.

I just thought the line on Sterling and Kane having such good chemistry (‘There can’t be many examples of two players who have never played together at club level boasting this kind of symbiosis’) was a really interesting one, and was wondering if anyone could suggest some other examples? I immediately thought of Shearer and Sheringham (after remembering Owen and Heskey played together at club level… they did, didn’t they?!) but also can’t think of a single thing they did together – it just seems to make sense though doesn’t it? Anyway, if anyone has any other suggestions then I’d love to hear them.
Jack (Buzzing for Saka and Rashford) Manchester


Saka love
There’s a reason why Bukayo Saka is universally loved at Arsenal, and that’s because you never get anything less than 100%.

I hope all the England fans realise what a wonderful, special player he is. He is not flashy, he is not egotistical, and everything he does in service of the team.

As an Arsenal fan, he fills me with pride. That our club made such a fine example of a man, and footballer. I’m not gonna heap platitudes on him. Just watch him, enjoy this World Cup and back him. Only 400 days after the biggest, crushing disappointment of missing a decisive penalty, on his World Cup debut, he scored two and did it with his head up and chest forward. He is an inspiration to all children of how to deal with adversity and loss. Never compromise yourself or your ideas and belief. Dust yourself off and go again.
John Matrix AFC


This guy still doesn’t get Mason Mount…
I fully accept that football managers and even football journalists know more about football than I do but maybe you could do an article or something explaining the purpose and benefits of Mason Mount that would be really handy.
Alex, South London 


READ MORE: Giddily rating the players from England 6-2 Iran: Bellingham, Saka, Sterling and Kane all dazzle


Playstation crowd
That felt alright to be fair. Atmosphere was shit though, like a PlayStation crowd,  but that’s what you get when (insert sporting body here) chase the money.

Bellingham is just, like, wow!
Tom, Sunny smallts


A Maguire Man Utd solution
I think I have discovered how Maguire can reignite his club form… Can he just wear and England shirt underneath his Man Utd one when the PL season recommences after the World Cup?

Also, Man United should do everything possible to land Bellingham. Even if it means mortgaging Old Trafford. That boy…!
Formerly HP Four score and four – Middle England


OneLove spinelessness
It seems every footballer at the World Cup is suffering from the same chronic injury, a lack of a spine.

Every single player on every single team should wear the OneLove armband.

Make a mockery of the entire situation.

Wear it on the bench. Wear it during interviews

Just grow a pair and make a stand.
Eoin (cowards all of them) Ireland 


A response to the ‘whatabouters’
Infantino’s statement diminishes the lived experiences of all the minorities that he claimed to belong to. He doesn’t and couldn’t possibly know what it means to be any of those things. I think what Paul K might have missed is that the world did understand his intention, but couldn’t believe how tone-deaf and reductive his statement was.

Very good of Paul to speak on behalf of the other 85% of the world and broad-stroke generalise their response to the World Cup. The structural inequalities that are still very much prevalent in many of the countries of the world that Paul does not live in, mean that the luxury of having your identity accepted, your sexuality accepted or having an unrestricted voice and legitimated presence in the socio-political sphere of the day-to-day mutes the stories and voices of dissent that would otherwise exist. For all of the many faults with Western social democracies, denying freedom of speech and expression remains far rarer than in other parts of the world. That is why the protest and dissent is louder in the West. Because it is allowed to be. I live in the Middle-East, and know for a fact that indigenous members of the gay community are desperate to be advocated for and supported and for external political pressure to be applied because any personal advocacy or dissent is punishable (depending on the Gulf state) by imprisonment, conversion therapy and/or corporal punishment, and, in many cases, accompanied by violence and sexual assault. And before you ask why members of the indigenous gay community don’t just leave, in the case of women, many are essentially the legal possession of their father and possess limited scope of independent rights, such as leaving the country (or even leaving the house). Therefore, escaping often means applying for political asylum, which also means putting the individual at enormous risk whilst this bureaucratic process plays out, not to mention the potential legal fallout and ramifications and cultural shame for the family who are left behind.

Like many people regarding migrant workers, there are broader issues that I think Paul overlooks. Firstly, regarding South-Asian migrant labourers: you won’t find students, women, babies or the elderly amongst this demographic. You will find healthy men in the age-range of 18-45 who have to undertake medicals to qualify for visas. So, you won’t have anyone dying due to old age, infant mortality or underlying respiratory problems. Also, the 6,500 statistic is specifically from the South-Asian migrant worker population. A fair point is that construction work is comparatively a high-risk profession, so you would expect to find higher rates of mortality amongst this demographic, just as you would expect it amongst deep-sea fishermen, or active-service soldiers. However, outside of Qatar, many people working in high risk industries like construction have their rights and safety operationalised, enjoy the benefits of unionisation, and, often, have access to adequate health care and protection via corporate insurance if they injure themselves or die. Migrant labourers have had none of these basic rights. They are uncared for human collateral in Qatar, and the broader gulf’s, world building and political legitimation exercises. They are forced to live in cramped, squalid labour camps and work 14-16 hour shifts, often in the summer months where the daytime temperature can reach over 50 degrees. So, even if the statistics are unreliable, it is still undeniable that migrant labourers endure inhumane living and working conditions, have no political legitimacy and risk their lives for very little reward.

If Paul had done a little more research, he would have known that many migrant labourers do not make any money or savings for years due to ‘sponsorship’ programmes that require the employees – many of whom are aggressively recruited in rural villages with false promises of riches and a better life – to pay back flight fees, relocation fees, visa fees and accommodation fees, all of which remain concealed at the point of recruitment. Passports are confiscated and withheld until projects are completed, forcing migrant labourers into indentured slavery. Whilst Paul is right to call out societies such as the UK for the unfairness/injustice/inadequacy of the living and social welfare conditions, it is an insult to migrant labourers to compare the two situations. In no particular order: typically the working classes do not have to detach themselves from their country of origin and leave behind their families to alleviate life-or-death poverty; the UK working classes have access to the NHS, whereas companies in Qatar have traditionally had no legal compulsion to provide migrant labourers with any form of healthcare; the working classes have access to free education and social housing projects – migrant labourers are cramped into tiny labour camps and receive no professional training or access to education for either themselves or their families. In no way am I saying that the systems in the UK are flawless, and there are of course some people who tragically fall through the net, but in comparison to the rights and conditions for migrant labourers they are incomparable.

Alan Shearer didn’t choose to hold a World Cup in a country that had no infrastructure or stadiums, and he didn’t decide that he would exploit the vulnerabilities of poverty-line Southern Asians to build the absent infrastructure and stadiums. He also didn’t choose to deny these workers basic professional and human rights and is therefore responsible or beholden to nobody for the issues that have transpired and the injustices that have been done. FIFA and Qatar collaborated in creating these conditions, therefore it is fair to question why they can’t use some of the lucrative rewards of staging the world cup on compensating the families of the dead, or the living but crippled or injured.

Paul has a fair point in stating that regressive laws either actively oppressing the LGBTQI+ community or denying them political legitimacy exist in far, far too many places around the world, not just Qatar. On this one FIFA are more to blame than Qatar, as FIFA are a not-for-profit who claim to ‘always stand for unity’ and ‘stand firm in favour of solidarity’ and an ‘equitable redistribution model’ yet chose to hold a World Cup in a country that appears to directly contravene their mission, vision and values. Like Paul, I do think that it is worth asking why this issue has been more prominent in the Arabic-Islamic Qatar 2022 than in majority-white Russia 2018, or non-Arab, majority Christian South-Africa 2010, both of whom have existing issues with freedom of sexual expression and identity. So whilst, I absolutely agree in calls for dialogue and change in Qatar, I think there is an uncomfortable question about why they have been so pointedly called to account when equally regressive regimes holding previous World Cups have not.

Again, I would suggest Paul comes and lives in a Gulf state to fully understand the broader picture of why crime rates are low and peace index rankings are high. Firstly, the Gulf States have a near enough 100% employment rate amongst the expatriate community, any hint of misdemeanour usually means being put on the first flight back home   leading to instant job loss and loss of earnings. Secondly, those living in desperate conditions in the Gulf, who may have the strongest motivation for stealing or committing crime in order to survive or alleviate poverty, are cosseted away from the rest of society, ferried directly to and from their labour camps to building sites – they have no independent transportation and no means to access any part of society beyond the razor-wired fences of their compounds. Thirdly, the punishments for crimes are draconian and extremely harsh. Lastly, the composition of indexes such as the global peace index and international crime comparison statistics are reliant on accurate information/data being provided to independent bodies by governments – the likelihood of this happening with honesty and integrity are somewhere between nothing and sod all in the Gulf states.

To anyone like Paul, I would say that it is possible for ideas and beliefs to coexist and to rotate in terms of their pritoritising. It is okay to think that the socio-politics in the Maldives are regressive AND to focus energy on protesting against Qatar because it is a bigger, more prominent platform with a higher soap-box and global reach. For instance, if Paul cancels his all-inclusive at The Ritz-Carlton in the Maldives out of indignation at the lack of gay rights, it will have less global reach than if pressure-groups or dissenting voices convince, let’s say, a huge global brand like Hummel to refuse sponsorship during the World Cup, or encourages a footballer like Harry Kane, with his 13 million Insta followers to lend his support to the LGBTQI+ community. Also, the existence of one form of evil and discrimination does not legitimate another. Russia may well have been/be a homophobic, autocratic regime at the time of the last World Cup, but that does not mean that it is cool for Qatar to be that in the here and now.

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