24 comments Add a comment
Could this modern Anglophobia in international sports be turning English people into rabid xenophobes? This is why I won't be following the 'anti-English' World Cup this year!
Let me just start by saying I don't have the tiniest interest in football or any sports for that matter as I just don't feel the necessary emotional connection with any hosted games in order to seriously follow them. When we're made to watch Man U play AC Milan in the UEFA, who would I care to support when it's just a mixed bag of foreign and British players versus another mixture of some country and their foreign recruits? I do, however, sometimes feel a small flutter of interest when it's the England national team playing, but even then, it's not enough given their dismal history of under-performance at international matches. But there's something else going on worldwide that has made me take what is perhaps a 'perverse' interest in the game and that is this recurring 'anti-English' tendency whenever our national team is dare mentioned.
I wasn't always that patriotic either, and felt as impartial towards England (be it nation or football team) as I did towards sports in general and was just as comfortable being 'British', but this Anglophobic vibe so common in sports today seems to have stirred a defensive patriotism in me (and quite possibly other English folk) that I'm sad to see has bled over to a thinly concealed xenophobia on my part. Could this modern Anglophobia in international sports be turning English people into rabid xenophobes?
The whole Anyone But England (ABE) craze has, as always, began early in the wake of this year's World Cup 2014 in Brazil where the Scots who originated the sneering campaign tell us it's all harmless fun - even English people have taken it on board somehow finding it amusing too. It seems that all our non-qualifying Celtic neighbours have this thing about rooting for England's opponents which is sad and misguided given that like them, England is a renowned underdog in international football and most sports anyway, yet they still see us as this elitist world conquering enemy even with us floundering on the football field.
Ireland, Wales and particularly Scotland cannot seem to get their heads around the fair notion that 'English people support England' and that our media and commentators south of the border will of course be behind the national team too, only they see this as 'arrogance' and us having unrealistic expectations of our team winning. Then there's this other mad notion the Scots have of our TV media, which they childishly refer to as the 'EBC' asking them to get behind England in the cup, something that might only be true of their OWN media. English people in general, and most of our newspapers don't honestly give a monkeys about Scottish support in the World Cup. The thing most of us find pretty stupid is this small-minded devotion to our opponents where the Scots (and many of their equally small-minded Irish cousins) will purchase those expensive shiny football shirts of Germany, Argentina and Cameroon just to sport during England matches.
I need to reiterate that English people support England, why wouldn't they?
There seem to be a tiny minority of Scots fans who see the pointlessness of this behaviour such as wise comic Billy Connolly who was once known to have openly condemned the ABE rubbish. I also remember another comedian of Scottish descent Jim Davidson stating quite plainly that he always supports his national team Scotland against England. Nothing wrong with that, it's just healthy patriotism to cheer on your own country whoever they may be playing. What you won't see the smart cockney jock doing is glorifying a certain illegal 'volleyball' player Diego Maradona and portraying the cheat as a messiah for his foul act against England that year like nearly all Scots do.
I need to reiterate that English people support England, why wouldn't they? But there seems to be this persuasion around the world stretching beyond the UK's Celts that believe there's a certain stigma in doing that. Why are you supporting England? You don't seriously believe they're going to win do you? Even our more boorish drunken fans with their St George painted faces don't believe that in their heart-of-hearts, but that's not really the point. The message seems to be that the rest of the world are telling us what we can and cannot be - and that can only lead to a backlash. The danger is that we might just become what people always accuse us of and I fear that will go beyond a bunch of louts throwing chairs after England lose the game. I have never really seen the funny side of ABE and the anti-Englishness in sports even if it is meant in good humour because I feel I am being told what I'm NOT allowed to be and quite honestly that smells of fascism. It is likely to turn the less humoured and deeper thinking English like myself into Celtophobic, anti-Antipodean and outright xenophobic UKIP voters which I certainly wasn't to begin with.
Even as a non-football fan, nothing would give me greater glory than to see Wayne Rooney jubilantly hoisting up the World Cup at the end of the tournament and for red and white flags to be flying everywhere in the alienating face of our Scots and Irish sneer, but realistically that is not going to happen in this lifetime. The reality is based upon the sad legacy of England's performance over the years where we are likely to get knocked out in the first round after another failed penalty shoot-out with 'spit' Germany where our Celtic deriders cream their ABE shirts in twisted glee.
It may sound unpatriotic but I often wish England didn't qualify so that the rest of the world wouldn't have a whipping boy and that fans wouldn't have to go through this ordeal every four years, but it seems we always do. At least that way we could holiday to a World Cup neutral nation and ignore the whole damn tribulation until it's over - that is what I will be doing this year in any case.
By: Oscar Silverman