James Maddison is basically Georgi Kinkladze as the World Cup debate rumbles on

England's surprise call-up James Maddison has been compared to ex-Man City star Georgi Kinkladze. Credit: Alamy
England's surprise call-up James Maddison has been compared to ex-Man City star Georgi Kinkladze. Credit: Alamy

England and the World Cup continue to dominate the Mailbox ahead of the last domestic weekend of football, with James Maddison being cast as the new Kinky/Grealish.

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James Maddison is just Kinky
Maddison is enjoying what is affectionately known as the Kinkladze effect. A player that looks quality amongst average, and well below average, teammates.

Kinkladze looked like a world-class player amongst the dross then at City. However, his career practically ended when he moved on to “bigger and better things”.

Grealish is experiencing similar things currently.

Players either sink or swim at elite levels and elite clubs.

No player is considered great until they are at an elite club playing at the elite level.

So all the clamour and hype for Maddison is disproportionate, but it is sadly what we do in this country.

Build a player up to the heavens, and then crash them to the ground when they don’t reach the heights that we alone expected them to achieve.

For what it is worth. I like Maddison. Good, not great, player. But, as is usual in this country, not deserving of the sword of Damocles that we have placed him under.
Paul King, Manchester


He won’t play anyway
It’s very sweet everyone is getting excited about the possibility of Maddison pulling the strings for England, it takes me back to the Euros when everyone was excited about what Sancho, Saka, Foden, Grealish, Rashford and Mount (ok nobody was excited about Mount) could do…. The simple fact is that if Southgate plays 5-2-3, which it looks like he will, then essentially Maddison, Rashford, Foden, Grealish, Mount and Saka are all competing for one single position up front with Kane and Sterling. I hope I’m wrong but Maddison is more likely to get 10 minutes across the whole tournament than he is to start a game.
Ian (BRFC)


Mental maths
The World Cup final kicks off on the 18/12 at 15:00.

We’ll have 11 players on the pitch

18 + 12 + 15 + 11 = 56.

2022 – 56 = 1966

It’s Coming Home!


Will a boycott survive England doing well?
How many fans will return to watching England games as we progress through the tournament?

Well, I’m boycotting this World Cup. I said I would boycott Russia 2018 and didn’t – but this one is far easier to avoid due to the timing of games.

As for your question, Jim, you seem to have forgotten about Eric Dier’s inclusion in the squad. I don’t even think England are getting out of the group.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


16 Conclusions on the World Cup debate
Following the debate on the Qatar World Cup has been an interesting and enlightening experience. For what it’s worth, here are my 16 conclusions so far:-

1) Is the lack of excitement and anticipation largely because it’s happening in the middle of the regular football season? Almost certainly.

2) Would there be any less outrage and criticism of the Qatari regime if it were held after the end of the regular season? Almost certainly not.

3) Should this be 16 Questions; not 16 Conclusions?

4) Politics – especially identity politics – poisons everything these days, including sport, but you don’t have to be a woke snowflake to take issue with Qatar hosting the World Cup; the myriad human-rights abuses are well-documented. Bladey Mick is right that this is not Politics365 or MoralHighGround365 but what’s so good about Football365 is the ancillary content like the opinion pieces and the mailbox. If you just want a scoreline and a dispassionate match report, go to BBC Football.

5) Ethical Consumerism is on the rise and rightly so. In this globalised and technologically advanced world, it is increasingly difficult to know who is making money out of us and how. It’s fine to worry about how our consumer decisions will affect lives and the environment elsewhere in the world. When it comes to football, it’s reasonable to worry about how clubs are run and by whom. Or whether certain nations should be allowed to host tournaments. And it’s forgivable to be conflicted and sometimes inconsistent in our decisions. For example, is it contradictory or hypocritical to complain about slave labour from your iPhone?

6) Whataboutery is fine if it’s used fairly and accurately to expose hypocrisy. It would be hypocritical for a Chelsea or Man City fan to take issue with the Saudi takeover of Newcastle (unless it was accompanied by an honest, even-handed criticism of their own clubs.) If used carelessly, Whataboutery can morph into obfuscation and apologism. To refrain from criticising the Qatari regime because “other countries have done bad things and also hosted World Cups” is lazy, cowardly and morally reprehensible.

7) The issue of boycotts is an interesting one. Boycotts only work if they hit companies or countries where it hurts. If withdrawing your demand for a product will directly hurt the profits of the company supplying it, then great! If more people get behind you, your boycott is more impactful and you will reduce supply. (See the recent cases of eco-numpties pouring milk on supermarket floors for an example of how not to boycott something). This World Cup is going ahead whether you like it or not. The TV rights have been distributed and the advertising space sold to sponsors. Your refusal to tune in and watch it on your TV might send a message to the TV companies in lower ratings but it will not create any immediate financial disincentive.

8) However, a more impactful boycott, if you are so-inclined, would be to stop reading websites like Football365 or buying newspapers that still cover the World Cup. A reduction in clicks will hit such media companies where it hurts

9) When it comes to international boycotts, there is a strong argument to say that they can actually make matters worse: alienating an already regressive regime and further entrenching them in their harmful practices and customs. Furthermore, a boycott can often be a propagandistic boon to a Tyrant or Autocrat, who will use it to fabricate an image of oppression and victimhood and thus galvanise support from its populace. Of course, every situation is very different

10) The comparison with South Africa is a salient one. It was right to boycott them during Apartheid: the racist regime was worthy of concerted, Global opposition and it helped bring about change. It was also right to award South Africa the World Cup in 2010: it was about time that the World Cup went to Africa and South Africa was – and probably still is – the only African nation that could realistically host it. Yes, it is still an unequal society with corrupt leaders and a less-than-exemplary track-record of human rights, but those problems pail in comparison to Qatar in 2022. It’s risible to pretend otherwise (the less said about the vuvuzelas, the better)

11) If you believe that welcoming Qatar into the footballing fold and highlighting the country’s problems on the global stage is the better option, then beware that they will certainly want to use this World Cup to “sports wash”; people like Gary Neville should work hard to make sure they fail.

12) Maybe we’re more reliant on Qatari oil than we were on South African tomatoes

13) It is not insulting to all Muslims to criticise an Islamic theocracy whose moral indiscretions are often undergirded by the teachings of Islam

14) It is insulting to Muslims – many of whom are gay/women/secular/liberal – to ignore such abhorrent behaviour or attempt to justify it with moral relativism

15) There is no way that FIFA officials factored in any of these moral considerations while receiving enormous bribes from the Qatari Government. FIFA and its various affiliates are disgustingly corrupt and in Qatar they have found the most inappropriate and brazenly insulting host nation. The fact that you only have to look back 4 years to find the Silver medal winner should show where the problem really lies.

16) Finding nuance in things is as rewarding as it is challenging.
WD, London


Let’s see some snogging
All this talk about boycotting, statements etc.. figured I’d pitch a few on this Friday afternoon.

What if teams walked onto the pitch holding hands? Either their own teammates or the opposition.

Or more high profile.. the Cup winning goal celebration will be seen the world over..

What if England make it to the final and one of the Harrys scored the winning goal and just ran over to the other Harry and stay started making out vigorously? Like tongue and everything, biting lips, the full monty.

Would you get a yellow card if you take someone else’s shirt off?

Oh, and to Bladey Mick, so sad you’re not able to go to Qatar, would have been perfect for you there, plenty of sand to stick your head in.
Stijn, Amsterdam


This World Cup should cost FIFA
I think something getting lost on the side of it being Qatari culture and it supposedly only being about the football is that it doesn’t line up with the supposed culture that FIFA themselves try to promote.

On the FIFA diversity and inclusion page it says “football is played on every continent, by every conceivable type of person, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ability, or any other distinguishing factor.”

It then proceeds to award it’s flagship tournament to a country that actively discriminates against both gender and sexuality as a backbone of their culture.

I’m going to watch the World Cup and likely would have looked to go if Ireland had made it but either FIFA should have quietly removed all this crap from their supposed aims and objectives or stop spouting it when it’s obviously not the motivating factor for awarding tournaments. This can’t be allowed to happen again.

Qatar have fallen short on all of their commitments in relation to this World Cup and I don’t see how the lower attendances and frankly, shocking facilities in terms of travel and other infrastructure (one city?!) along with their medieval views are not going to cost FIFA a lot more than the money pocketed for selling out.

Hopefully there are no major issues and we can get a good tournament at least on the pitch.
Liam, Dublin


What about your whataboutery?
El If, I don’t recall anybody saying that we aren’t allowed to criticise the current hosts of the World Cup. In fact, I have seen multiple mails recently doing just that. Even the recent mail that called the UK hypocrites fully acknowledged the atrocities in Qatar.

What you have done there is combat supposed whataboutery with…. whataboutery. Yes, being gay is no longer illegal in the UK and hasn’t been since 1967. Let’s not pretend that its been all plain sailing for members of the LGBTQ+ community since though, shall we? You only need to look at the language and ‘debate’ among certain politicians and other prominent figures around the rights of trans people to see that the bigotry has merely shifted sideways, it hasn’t disappeared. You may also want to look at a recent report on the number of children killed by the UK military during the war in Afghanistan to see that innocent people are still dying in the name of western colonialism.

Again, none of this is to say that we aren’t allowed to criticise Qatar because we have done bad stuff too. This is just a reductive dismissal of legitimate examples of hypocrisy. Is the UK currently as bad as Qatar? Its debateable, but there are certain freedoms that come from living in the UK that would seem to suggest so. That doesn’t mean that its all fine though. The past is the past and the present is still pretty bad in a multitude of ways. We can look at both and call them both out.

Essentially there is no right or wrong answer. The awarding of the World Cup has always been shrouded in corruption and bribery, no matter the country. Qatar should never have been given it, but they have. So much has been said about the atrocities committed by its regime and rightly so. But! Lets acknowledge our hypocrisy too, because that really is the only way we will learn.


The fighting is a good thing, right?
The mailbox is predictably full of people arguing for and against watching the World Cup, and while it’s frustrating to see people argue against your viewpoint, we’re missing the key point here… people are arguing. People are discussing this process a lot more than they ever have before. Yes, it’s taken a frankly ludicrous decision to host in a country that it obviously shouldn’t be hosted in to get to this stage, but one positive can be taken from this whole mess… things have changed. There is no going back.

Surely from this point forwards, international tournaments will be a useful tool in casting a light on the social issues surrounding the host nation. This can only be a good thing. Actually, when you think about it, doesn’t it seem weird to think that we have had such a low level of scrutiny up to this point? There was a little for Russia, but it didn’t amount to much, in football terms at least. Then there was South Africa. It was over ten years ago, and the mailbox has advised me is past the statute of limitations for this kind of thing.

There was AFCON, of course; hosted by a nation with considerable human rights abuses, where it’s still very illegal to be gay etc. but that was in the past. In some ways, it doesn’t matter how long ago it was (it wasn’t very long ago), but the main fact is that it was BQ (before Qatar), now hopefully the host nations of major tournaments AQ (yes, AFCON is a major tournament, weren’t you listening last year?) will face increased scrutiny. There is another tournament next year that you can get upset about, the key issues are women’s rights, democratic rights and LGBTQ+ rights, and the host is Côte d’Ivoire… enjoy doing your research.
Rob (Eswatini)

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