In-ger-land


So, England will not be competing in next summer's European Championships. Frankly, I'm glad. I enjoy watching football, but not England. It isn't the inability of multi-millionaires to play a simple game in a coherent manner that puts me off, irritating as it is. It's the behaviour of the people that watch.

When people watch the club they support, they do just that: support. As a rule, they are predisposed to be nice to their own players and with an expectation that supporters of the other team will be equally partisan. But when people demonstrate their "passion" for the national team, it's far too frequently with an abusive tone, with the indignation of unmet and unrealistic expectations, and with a lack of basic decency that other countries' supporters are able to show.

Here in Sweden, most gardens have a flagpole from which the Swedish flag flies on special occasions. In England, if someone flies the cross of St George in their garden, it tends to mark them out as strange. We have difficulty expressing our nationality. Is it because we're ashamed of it, or secretly too proud, or so self aware as to be both? I'm not sure. But when the England team plays, the expression of national identity is nothing other than boorish and offensive, witness the routine booing of other countries' national anthems.

Much navel-gazing and public thought will be given to how to get these lavishly rewarded footballers to perform at something approaching the level their status would imply. But I think there's a more pressing issue: where do these polyester-clad outpourings of chauvinism and anger come from, and how can we make them stop?


ps. the views expressed here are not necessarily those of my employer.

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