Wayne Rooney during the match against Uruguay. Photo: Getty
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England second best again: how the lack of a truly world class player took its toll

Despite losing to Uruguay, this England team is one for the future, and viewed as such there is no real disgrace in such an elimination from a tough group.

Saturday's promise fell away, and careless passing and lack of genuine class meant England, always third favourites in the group of death, were second best again. In truth there was little to choose between two workmanlike sides, but as against Italy the lack of a truly world class player took its toll. Suarez, operating at three-quarter capacity after a knee operation, had two superb finishes, classic demonstrations of a striker's art, and was the real difference between the teams. Poor Rooney may have broken his World Cup finals duck, and was desperately close when he hit the bar and skimmed the goalposts with a well executed free kick, but he is no Suarez, no Ronaldo, no Van Persie. Steven Gerrard, whose slip presaged the demise of Liverpool's challenge for the title, missed a critical header for Uruguay's winner – no Pirlo is he. We have no Messi or Muller, not even an ageing Drogba or crazy Ibrahimovic. The last descendants of the “golden generation” have proved in maturity to lack an icon, barely silver or bronze at best.

This is a team for the future, and viewed as such there is no real disgrace in such an elimination from a tough group. In Sterling, Sturridge, Barkley and Welbeck, Roy Hodgson, assuming he stays, and surely he should, has something to build upon. But whether this crop of promising players no less or no more talented than the Lampards, Terrys and Beckhams will develop into players of real world stature we cannot tell. The Premier League is a successful commercial venture, foreign owned, largely managed and coached by foreigners who care little for England and the World Cup, which is seen as an unnecessary intrusion into their cash and ego fest. Of that generation only Beckham became an icon, but not a real football icon, a fashion celebrity now more revered in underwear than in his football kit. Germany does it differently, their league is not so commercial, and they seem to care more for their national team. Their league plays at least on equal footing with the national team.

The tournament so far has had much excitement and skill to recommend it. Neither of these teams looked likely champions, but Uruguay with the smallest population of any of the finalists, will probably stay on, and England travel quietly home. Of the world class players on show in Brazil, most ply their trade in Spain, Italy or Germany. True there are some from the Premier League, but they seem, apart from Van Persie at Arsenal, to have learnt their craft elsewhere.

The World Cup is supposed to be the summit of the game, a collection of the best, and our boys are not collectively or individually the best. Whether anyone cares, and has the will to change what is a national mindset is the crux.

Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.