Football And Patriotism

Today I am tackling a big subject (or maybe two big subjects?), football and patriotism. Tonight there is a huge football match taking place: England are playing Italy in the quarter finals of Euro 2012, and I can’t decide who I want to win. I’m hoping that writing this blog will help me to decide!

Now, I know that my indecision may make some England fans apoplectic – they will be wondering how I could even countenance cheering on Italy against my home nation? Well let me explain.


Samuel Johnson summed it up nicely when he said :”Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Of course what he was railing against was not love of ones country, but a false patriotism where people use a veneer of patriotism to attack other countries, other peoples, other beliefs. It is this false patriotism, what I would call ‘vicious patriotism’ (maybe I could invent the word ‘vitriotism’ here?) that turns me off from supporting England at football.


I should make clear here that I am a football (soccer to my friends in the States) lover, I have a season ticket for my local club. I have been enjoying watching Euro 2012. What I am not, however, is one of those people that seem to think that because England ‘invented’ the game we have a divine right to be better than everyone else.


What is even worse is the assumption that many England fans seem to possess that England itself is a better nation than any other, that we are a race apart – better than anybody else. This is in a word racism, and I despise bigotry in all its forms and its disguises.


There is nothing wrong with supporting England if you want to, good luck. If you want to wave an England flag and sing along to the national anthem whilst you watch the match then all well and good, I have no problem  with that. But it seems to me that too many fans, spurred on by the worst elements of our media, cross the line from supporting a country to racism.


Let me explain: singing your own anthem is fine, booing other nation’s national anthems is not fine. And we see our ‘fans’ doing it time and time again. Why do they dress as crusader knights? The crusades were nothing to be proud of. If you explained to these fans that St George was not English at all, that he was actually from modern day Turkey, then I suspect that you would get more than a little abuse.


And of course the media hype is the most sickening element of all. Whenever we (England) play Germany then the tabloid press are full of references to ‘krauts’ and ‘the hun’ and endless tales of how ‘we won the war.’ When we play France, they are inevitably referred to as ‘frogs’. Let there be no doubt about it: this is racism. And so today we play Italy and what do we have? The Sun leads with ‘Caesar The Day: The Sun conquers Rome in red, white and blue minis.’ The other tabloids follow suit and Talksport Radio plays The Godfather theme tune every time Italy is mentioned.


So, taking all of this into account, I am finding it very hard to support England tonight. I don’t believe that any  nation is better than any other, I find it bizarre to think that one person could be inherently better than another simply because he was born closer to me than the other was. Borders are simply arbitrary lines that were drawn up in the distant past, they should not control how we judge people. An English man is no better than an Italian, than a German, than an Afghan.


But yet I do love England. I love the beautiful countryside of the Yorkshire dales and moors, I love Shakespeare, I adore the novels of the Brontes, I am proud that we abolished slavery (if not so proud of our earlier role in promoting it), I love fish and chips and a roast beef dinner, I think that the music of Benjamin Britten is incredible, our contribution to popular music is immense.


And yet I love so many things Italian as well: the gorgeous climate, vespa scooters, spaghetti carbonara, Puccini and Verdi, the unrivalled beauty of the Sistine Chapel, the plays of Dario Fo.


So have I decided? Well I think that when I watch the match tonight (in a good old English pub) I will have my face painted half England and half Italy and I will alternate my drinks between Strongbow cider and Perroni lager. I want the best team on the night to win, and I want vitriotism to lose. If you agree, or if you don’t agree, then please comment below.


Keep in touch with this blog, next week I have an interesting article about publishing versus self publishing. Until then I bid you goodbye and arrivederci!



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