English Soccer Team Praised, Derided
LONDON (AP) _ One fan took it out on the TV set, and several hundred others took to the streets across England, smashing shop windows and fighting in disappointment after their soccer team was ousted from the World Cup.
Newspapers hailed England’s team as heroes, battling with one player short most of the game to hold Argentina to a draw _ only to lose Tuesday night in a nail-biting 4-3 penalty shoot-out.
Police reported 45 arrests, mainly in southern England towns, as shocked fans poured out of pubs.
England coach Glen Hoddle commented that ``it’s not a matter of life and death.″ But that’s not how many saw England’s World Cup defeat _ the third in eight years.
A Sky TV phone-in was flooded with callers, many blaming David Beckham _ a $13.3 million-a year star engaged to Spice Girl Posh _ who was sent off the field for a retaliatory kick at an Argentine player who fouled him.
``Beckham has let the team, the fans out there and everyone watching at home down,″ said Ian Hawkins. ``He should never play for England again.″
Hawkins was among hundreds of dejected fans arriving at London’s Waterloo station this morning, streaming off the English Channel tunnel train from France.
In Poole, on the south England coast, a 29-year-old man smashed the TV set in his pub, The Tatnum, after England missed the final penalty. Dorset police said six people were arrested in separate incidents.
In Peterborough, near Cambridge, police armed with riot shields used tear gas to break up a crowd of 100 fans fighting and shouting in the town’s Cathedral Square. One policeman was hit in the face during the fracas, the most serious of 20 incidents in the town.
Brawls also erupted in Saint-Etienne, the southeastern French city where the game was played. World Cup organizers said 36 people were arrested there on various charges, including assault, theft and public drunkenness.
The story of England’s defeat was splashed over national newspapers. ``Heroes,″ said The Express. ``So Cruel,″ declared the mass-circulation Sun, while The Mirror announced, ``10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy.″
An estimated 28 million people in Britain watched the match, and the national power service said electricity usage surged to levels registered when the ``Who Shot J.R?″ episode of ``Dallas″ was shown in Britain in 1985.
There was little sympathy today for Beckham in Manchester, where he plays for the Manchester United team.
``He’s supposed to be a professional. He’s paid millions of pounds a year and he goes and does something like that in an important game,″ said Gary Foden. ``It cost England the match. ″