Monday, July 03, 2006

Small Mercies

Argentina and Brazil are out, but so are the Poms, so the weekend wasn't a complete disaster.

In the latest Weekly Worker Lawrence Parker, who wrote an incisive piece about England's Ashes win last year, anatomises the misery that seems to express itself in the play of the English football team and in the lives of their more obsessive supporters:

Throughout the tournament, England have been surrounded by a swirl of anxiety: Wayne Rooney’s injury, coach Sven-Goran Eriksson’s dodgy substitutions, David Beckham’s patchy form and so on. Of course, other national sides have to face up to life in the goldfish bowl, but this sense of angst is particularly marked in nations such as Britain (whose emotional core is English), where there is always the sense that we should be the best - a leftover from ‘our’ imperial past.

This backdrop only ratchets up the tension. The social base of this misery has also broadened. I watched the Sweden game in a pub in an expensive residential area in London. It is interesting to observe that the newer, more ‘middle class’ England supporters have absorbed the fatalism expressed by their proletarian counterparts (‘How can they do this to us, Tarquin!’).

The songs that England fans sing in Germany also express this fatalism. ‘England till I die’ and ‘Self-preservation society’ relate a sense of stoicism in the face of impending doom. Some of this national tension expresses itself in England’s record of hooliganism (a group of around 500 were detained by the German authorities in Stuttgart last weekend). Still, at least we are good at something.

It seems to me that some of the points Parker makes are applicable to Kiwi rugby fans - many of them associate All Black domination of the sport with the 'golden era' when New Zealand led the world in living standards and was widely seen as a utopia. We can't quite accept the less exalted position of the All Blacks in recent decades because we can't quite accept the decline of the country's fortunes. Will that 1987 World Cup triumph come to assume the same melancholic place in New Zealand rugby history as England's 1966 World Cup win assumes in their footballing history, as a symbol of vanished glory?


Blogger Mark K said...

Britain (whose emotional core is English)

What on earth do you suppose that means? If it means anything other than "(the vast majority of the population of which is English)", which is clearly not what it says, then I would say it is risibly false.

1:33 pm  

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