In the narrow alleyways and lanes of Al Wakrah Souq, the bustling night crowds contain a young mum in a hijab booting a football for her toddler son as a mini parade taking children threads, it is way down the seafront.
On the beach, men in formal Arab robes offer camel lifts, and the camel themselves honk with apparent indignation. And glossy posters in English aimed at evangelizing visitors pronounce ‘Beaming is a form of charity — Prophet Muhammad.’
This is Qatar. The World Cup organizers enjoy visiting, where the Arabian Gulf laps gently on the sands, the temperature is a pleasant 25 spans once the sun heads down, and children play football in the streets. Meanwhile, their parents cheered on fellow Arab nation Morocco against Canada. They sat near the big screen TVs, specially installed in the swish cafes where the inviting aroma of zesty grilled lamb fills the promenade.
‘The villagers have to dig out the wolf, and it’s who’s the most useful liar,’ said Rice. ‘Conor is the narrator, and the boys have a big argument [over who are the wolves]. There’s a lot of teamwork and a lot of ganging up! You vote on who the wolves are every round, and when they win, they make the wolf sound.’ So that wailing sound in Al Wakrah was not their despair at the 0-0 draw with the USA.
On the most superficial level, it’s good healthy fun. On another, it is a sign of how far England has crossed. ‘The spirit within the company is a huge aspect of global football,’ said Eric Dier, who taught the game, which is famous at Tottenham. ‘You always need more time to be as good tactically as you would at your company. It’s impossible to achieve many things in a club set-up where you’re with every day of your life. There are a lot of items you need help getting.
‘But one thing you can, do is that spirit. It’s something that we’ve had in the last major tournaments. We had it in the last World Cup, looking from the outside at the Euros, and it looked the same. You feel it now, too. Each game has different items; this time, the wolf game brings everyone together and breaks the ice.’
Even if the prison-like conditions of Camp Capello’s 2010 training base in Rustenburg, South Africa, were overstated, the lack of a team dynamic wasn’t. The closest that crew got to team bonding and laughter was Fabio Capello ending his ban on tomato ketchup and butter, which he feared encouraged the players to overeat bread. Back then — and as Kyle Walker just related, in the Roy Hodgson era — players faded to their rooms with their PCs and PlayStations and, from 2012, social media between games. Capello envisioned they would read a book if bored.
Sports psychologist Michael Caulfield has been a long-term friend of Gareth Southgate (left) since a chance meeting at Middlesbrough in 2006, which led to Southgate using Caulfield during his spell as manager at the club. He now works at Brentford, but they have stayed in touch since that first meeting on a friendship basis rather than a professional one.
However, as Caulfield explains, those long chats about the merits of the iconic comic duo do stray into professional areas. ‘You have to have to trust to work in football because it’s not an industry that breeds trust, and that’s a word I discuss with Gareth over the years.’ The pair shared a love for Eric Morecambe, and Caulfield recalls one of his more famous jokes. Asked about the unknown of good comedy, the comedian replied before the question finished: ‘Timing.’
‘And the audience laughed. In our role [as psychologists or managers], it’s all about timing. The trick is to determine what days a player likes to say “good morning” over breakfast [and talk] and what days they don’t. Who’s curious today, and who’s not? Coaching is the same. Some daytimes you can, some days you can’t. Time the question incorrect, and you’re on the back foot forever. You’re better off waiting.’
Southgate inherited an England team scarred by history. Even running back just 12 years, there were Capello’s years of old-school non-communication. There was the ‘out in two games’ farce of Brazil 2014 when Hodgson owned tried to do what Southgate did and get in contact with his softer side by utilizing psychiatrist Steve Peters.
‘Roy tried to take a distinct stance in dealing with players,’ recalled Wayne Rooney. ‘He was trying to work a little better calmly. Then we failed twice, and by the third match, you could see all that was out of the window, and he got his sore head on again!’ Rooney preferred angry Roy. At least you understood where you were