Friday 15 February 2008

Roll up! Roll up! Anybody else want to hate the English?

football-telly.jpg
It's not just you Irish who are upset about the whole Partition thing. There are English men such as myself who, when settled comfortably on the sofa in front of their tele, have been known to swear and curse and damn the Six Counties, their very existence and all they ever were, are or might very well be.
But it's not really their existence that does my head in. It's the BBC and their dark evil mind games.
There's Gary Lineker on Saturday night's Match Of The Day, building the hype for the big England game, which is live on BBC1 on Wednesday at 7.30.
And well it might be, if you were living in England (see, I didn't even call it 'The Mainland').
At the consigned hour, with beer, whiskey, pizza aplenty and lads agog, we are cruelly transported to another game, involving a team from what appears, somehow magically, to be a different country to both the one I'm living in and the one I'm from.
You could argue that I should be grateful; that going by recent form, Northern Ireland have become a more entertaining prospect than England, but that's missing the point.
We don't belong to our sporting tribes because we really think our respective teams are the best.
When the die-hard fans at Accrington Stanley sing:
"We're Accrington Staaaanley! Accrington Stanley Efff Ceeeeee! We're by far the greatest tee-eeam ...the world has eeeever seen!" they know they're not really.
Sporting tribes are like families: the most important thing is to belong. That's why we tend to choose the ones we grew up amongst.
Certainly, speaking personally, where national sporting tribes are concerned, I don't give a monkeys on any deep or spiritual level. In my heart and head I wear the colours of so many different nations, cultures, creeds and tribes that I'd never be able to give too much of a damn for any one in particular.
But that's no fun.
So instead I proudly and somewhat loudly raise the White Ensign, and come on all blimey guv'nor how's your father, because that guarantees a reaction in the Republic of Ireland.
Well, no, that's not true either.
Yes it gets a reaction, but no, I do not go to pubs to court antagonistic wind-up lightly disguised as Irish wit.
I go to watch the game, and hope to goodness it will be a good spectacle.
So, a few months back, when England played Russia in a Euro qualifier, I toddled off to KRCMA, the Eastern European bar in Salthill.
Surely there I might find myself at worst a neutral crowd, at best a friendly supportive bunch. After all, what had Russia ever done for them? Wouldn't it be another case of 'My enemy's enemy is my friend'? Not to mention the small matter of the English lads who died to kick the Nazis out of their countries.
No, that doesn't work either. Not when you consider the 29 million Russians who died in the Second World War. Yeh, that's right: seven times the population of this country. It was neither the Stars and Stripes nor the Union Jack that defeated Hitler. Not getting too serious on you here now, but I've always felt that the enormity of the Communist Russian sacrifice was swept under history's carpet by the Capitalists who wrote our history books and printed in our school Atlas world maps with Mercator Projections, designed specifically to make Russia look vast and threatening to our little 1960's kiddy minds.
Anyway, the game was a disaster for the English, and this Englishman. My footballers underestimated the Russians and I misjudged the locals.
I was curious to find out why one young woman, who had earlier told me she was Latvian, had been shouting so energetically and vociferously for the Russians.
What might a Latvian love about Russia, beyond the fact that ultimately they gave them their country back?
"S'cuse me there. Didn't you tell me you were Latvian? I was just wondering. Were you shouting for Russia, or against England?"
"Oh no. I am Latvian, yes? Russian from Latvia!"
"Oh right, I see. Thanks!" said I, less than none the wiser. Seems to me there is almost an infinite number of ways to dislike the English, and being sadly human, that serves only to make me prouder of being English. Not because I am proud of being disliked or dislikable, but because I know better.
Like duh. Some of us English are evil and some of us aren't.
Just like you.
Just like everybody, but again, that's no fun, so we construct illogical emotional sporting tribes, and have a larf, a shout, a swear, a wee tear and then jump around shout and cheer and yell louder and longer than we would were a child just born.
We can let ourselves go because, at ve hend of va day, Brian, it doesn't matter either way.
We avow and bestow an undying lifetime of loyalty unto our sporting tribes, and breathe deep the ecstasy when they are, for a brief exquisite moment, like Accrington Stanley, by far the greatest tee-eeam ...the world has ever seen.
Girlfriends boyfriends pets and parents come and go, but your tribe is your tribe. Sure, the Irish know better than anyone, because your GAA parish teams are as hardcore as it gets anywhere in the world.
Right now the hype is flying about the Six Nations Rugby, and even though I would love to sit and share verbal craic and quippy bon mots with the local Irish, I will stay at home to watch the England games, because it's not worth the hassle.
When the Irish are playing anybody but the Auld Enemy, I shout for the boys in green, but what kind of sad pathetic man would I be to sit in the pub, as the barrage of anti-English artillery comes flying my way during the game, to negotiate like a wrung-out flaccid liberal flannel:
"But but but I thupport your team too! Yeth I do, honetht. Come on you boyth in green!"
So even though I do indeed yell for my host country, when the white rose of England is on the field of battle, I keep my support to myself.
Grunt.
Yes, hoh baby, even as I write that, an image builds in my minds' eye, and the Jingoist sporting bile rises in my throat.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, I suppose many of us are upset about the whole partition thing; it terms us "yoo kaaay" and suggests we are unified not just with the taffs and jocks but the dislikeable fucking micks too!

Let's unite Oirland and deport every mental green-blooded bastard back there.

Charlie Adley said...

I thought the point was that you (they in the North) are not yet united with Ireland.

Allan Cavanagh said...

This particular eejit left an incoherent but hate-filled comment on my blog too. It'll never see the light of day but it's obvious that trolls do there work when they're pissed coming back from the pub.