The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 11 Jun 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Ingerlund

I’m one of the people I would probably have hated twenty years ago. To wit, an Englishman who not only doesn’t support England, but actively supports other national teams and wants England to lose when they play. Quite what happened, I’ll try and explain, as much to myself as anyone else, but I think it has something to do with a complex alchemy of getting older and getting less angry about things that don’t matter, allied to a lasting contempt for the team and their fans.

As regards the team, at some, mythic point in the last twenty or so years, they seem to have become hugely unlikable. Any team which includes rat-faced pond life John Terry does not commend itself very highly to humanity, but others of England’s so-called ‘golden generation’ are singularly unlikable. To someone whose first involvement with the England team was watching Italia 90, a tournament which was about football, rather than hype, and where journalists could get access to the players and ask them actual questions rather than PR-approved fluff, something seemed to have gone quite severely wrong by the early twenty first century.

The Nevilles are, obviously, appalling beyond all measure, particularly Gary Neville who looks like the product of a genetic experiment involving a ferret. Michael Owen is one of the dullest men known to humanity, Rio Ferdinand has the misfortune to be an absolute, galloping cock with no self-knowledge, Wayne Rooney is a giant, beefy sex pest, Ashley Cole would scarcely look out of place in Belmarsh and Peter Crouch is talentless, ungainly and, like Rio, a cock. The list goes on. Were any of these players trapped in a burning building, my instinct would be to do something singularly uncharitable, like forget the number for 999.

All behaved like pampered prima donnas who were prepared to whine, moan and generally exhibit all the petulance of a two year old wrestling with a tricky turd if it was ever implied that they were fallible humans, and all made me slowly realise that following the national team was a giant exercise in cognitive dissonance. But this is as nothing, as nothing, compared to the behaviour of the England ‘fans,’ a term used advisedly, who will take any opportunity to make the rest of the country look appalling, spread it on the grass and then roll around in it like a dog with vomit.

If the England fans spent years trying to build a reputation as fighty, combative morons with a need to drink, insult the idea of being a homo sapiens and then get arrested, they can scarcely complain when trouble starts finding them out. Regardless of who throws the first picnic chair, the England supporters join in with a kind of manic zeal, fighting all-comers with a savage sense of brainless entitlement and vast stupidity. They’re at it again now in Marseilles, breathing through their mouths and hitting anyone who isn’t English. In their world, it’s always someone else who started it and that’s the perfect reason for carrying it on.

You have to conclude, when they riot again, are imprisoned again and involved in trouble, again, that the England thing can’t be saved. If people want to kill you when you go overseas, stop going until everyone has forgotten that you tend to be fighty idiots and you can then do what everyone else’s fans do, namely, mingle with other fans, enjoy the party and watch some football. Until then, it’s best not to bother. There’s even an argument to say that England are such a liability in these situations that they should be banned from competing, which I’m minded to look on sympathetically.

When it comes to getting older and less angry, I can no more remember why I ever cared than I can fly. Once, national tournaments were everything to me. I’ve wept openly after penalty shootouts, found myself lunging towards the TV for corners and drunk hundreds of pints of lager while screaming, emptily, at players who could never hear me. Now this seems bizarre. Why did I ever do this? Why did I think it mattered? I remember calling for one player to be murdered after playing against England. Why did I do this? Why was I so angry? I simply can’t remember.

Age has to be part of it, but I still see England ‘fans’ my age and older who still seem to get hugely worked up about it and for whom it still seems to matter. Frankly, this seems hugely sad. If life has given you nothing more to care about than your nationality, then you’ve been short-changed and need to start thinking about how you live it. Nationality is an accident of birth: no more, no less. To want to shout about it, identify with some mythic load of old cobblers and then brain anyone who doesn’t agree is the height of stupidity. If you want to live your whole life choosing to be stupid, then that’s just regrettable.

This year, I’m supporting Sweden, because it’s where I’d like to live and Wales, because the Gary Speed thing was happening at roughly the same time I had my breakdown. Neither set of fans are known for causing trouble and for being anything other than a joy to have around, which tells me that I made the right choice. As to England, they belong in the footballing dark ages along with the team of pampered millionaires. I’ll miss neither.

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