This sporting life

by Chris Bertram on November 9, 2003

Quite a sporting weekend for me: I saw Leicester Tigers beat Wasps 32-22 yesterday, then Wales gave England a scare in the Rugby world cup, then Liverpool were denied a deserved point against the S*** at Anfield when referee Graham Poll lacked the courage to award us a cast-iron penalty. Two wins out of three isn’t bad. but when I weight them by how much I care it is still pretty grim.

The only one of these events I attended in person was the Tigers-Wasps encounter which was thoroughly enjoyable and ended a losing streak for Tigers. Bizarrely, the Zurich Premiership continues whilst the leading players are all at the World Cup with the consequence that the strongest teams become the weakest overnight.

All of which is a prelude to brief comment on which teams the English should support at the Rugby World Cup.

England aren’t too popular among Australians, Celts and other colonial types. Which is fair enough. But the odd thing about England and the English is the somewhat odd policy that some English lefties have of supporting other countries against England. This phenonomenon, akin to Leninist revolutionary defeatism , seems peculiar to the English (French, German and American leftie sporting enthusiasts seem to have no problem about cheering on their home team). This lack of national sporting allegiance is sometimes accompanied by a more wholesale national disindentification where, either attracted by the more romantic nature of the Celtic nations or repelled by postcolonial guilt, people who are plainly acculturated as English seek to identify as “really” something else (on the grounds that this or that ancestor was Irish, Scottish or Welsh).

There’s no right or wrong answer of course, about which team a person should support. So if guilty English lefties want to cheer for others then they’re perfectly entitled to do so (but is their displaced allegiance welcome or irritating to the recipients?). But if I’m right in thinking that postcolonial angst is part of the motivation then that seems doubly misplaced. First, anyone who has read Linda Colley’s Britons knows that the Scots rather than the English occupied the upper echelons of the Imperial high command. Second, it seems to me that the displacement of the Union Jack by the Cross of St George in the hands of English sporting fans represents if not an explicit rejection of Great British colonial nationalism, at least an adaptation to something less jingoistic and aggressive, which is a shift that lefties should welcome. So, for the rest of the Rugby World Cup, I, for one will be cheering for Engerrlland.

{ 11 comments }

1

dismembermentplanfan 11.09.03 at 8:01 pm

Good for you. And I will support NZ after my poor paddies got hammered, on the basis that those boys look damn fine in their black strips.

2

metafizum 11.09.03 at 8:59 pm

at least stevie g. signed until 2007… or is this just a rumour? ;)

3

dmm 11.09.03 at 9:16 pm

Liverpool lost also because Heskey is unable to stay on his feet anywhere inside the 18-yard box.

4

Randy Paul 11.10.03 at 1:24 am

DMM,

Indeed. That was a golden opportunity for Heskey, which, had he made would have been his 100th in the Premiership.

Meanwhile, the Gunners remain the only undefeated team in all the FA leagues.

5

Keith 11.10.03 at 5:44 am

This Welshman will be supporting France. I’d like to see a Northern Hemisphere team put the Southern down a peg, but wild horses couldn’t get me to support England.

6

derrida derider 11.10.03 at 11:18 am

Nah, take it from me (an Australian) – the reason no-one supports the poms in the world cup is that they are boring. When they stop kicking and start running they’ll get more supporters.

7

yabartleby 11.10.03 at 12:35 pm

The reason this lefty Englishman will never support an English rugby team is simple class hatred. Look at the people who play the game. Look at the crowd at “Twickers”.

8

Thlayli 11.10.03 at 7:18 pm

Meanwhile, the Gunners remain the only undefeated team in all the FA leagues.

Because apparently there’s a rule that Thierry Henry is not to be called offside under any circumstances….

9

dsquared 11.10.03 at 7:27 pm

I can’t remember who it was who suggested that if someone detonated a nuclear bomb at Twickenham on the day of the Varsity Match, they would set back the prospects of Fascism in this country by two generations.

10

Chris Brooke 11.10.03 at 9:17 pm

I’m glad to see that my disinclination to support England in the World Cup has prompted so much discusison, though I don’t think Chris gets the reasons quite right. More on this subject on my blog soon, probably.

With reference to D-squared’s question: according to this page it was Philip Toynbee who said something like that: but the bomb has to be placed in the West Car Park, it’s for an international (rather than specifically for the Varsity match) and then only for one generation.

None of which is incompatible with the thought that blowing up the Varsity match may save the country from fascism for _two_ generations.

11

jamie 11.11.03 at 5:07 pm

“This lack of national sporting allegiance is sometimes accompanied by a more wholesale national disindentification where, either attracted by the more romantic nature of the Celtic nations or repelled by postcolonial guilt, people who are plainly acculturated as English seek to identify as “really” something else (on the grounds that this or that ancestor was Irish, Scottish or Welsh).”

As a completely non-celtic Stoke City fan, my tenderness towards the Irish team during the nineties was derived from the fact that they were effectively a representative non-premiership (with one or two exceptions) English league side. They represented the kind of journeyan players who the average football going fan went to see every week. Tonmy Cascarino would wander aimlessly between the halfway line and 18 yard box and I’d think, “yes, I’ve seen this so many times before…”

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