Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shine forth upon these clouded hills.

Back in 1990 I wrote a letter to Socialist Worker, along with my friend and comrade, Marcus Coyte, pointing out that for most working class people the World Cup is just about football. Our argument, as true now as it was then, is that it would be great for the sport of football if England were to win the world cup, and in fact even getting to the Semis proved to be a big boost for the game.

I’m sorry I didn’t keep the original, and cannot recall exactly what we wrote, but what a shit storm it started. Including the SWP putting on a special meeting at Marxism that year for Chris Bambury to denounce the heresy, and one leading full timer asked me whether I had been given a kicking yet (of course jokingly, but it was still intimidating). Most funnily the local North Bristol branch of the SWP put on a special meeting to discuss it with us, and held it on the same day as England played Germany in the semi-finals! Were we likely to be there?

The gist of our argument was that football is followed by millions of people, who follow the players in the premiership, and want to follow those same players at the highest international level. It should also be remembered that interest in the World Cup is also huge even when England don’t qualify.

The English national team (in 1990 as today) is multi-racial, with talented black players, and the team celebrates the multi-cultural nature of England today. In 1998 when France won the World Cup, the face of North African Arab, Zinadine Zidane was projected onto the Arc d’Triumphe, and the racist FN who had denounced the national team as mongrels had ash in their mouths.

It is also worth mentioning that the "sport as a rehersal for war" argument was tested within a year, and no-one I knew who had supported England in the World Cup in 1990 supported the British in the war against Iraq following the iinvasion of Kuwait.

Some will argue for supporting another team like Trinidad and Tobago, but with the exception of a few individuals like Dwight Yorke or Shaka Hislop, I don’t know the players, and in any event they will probably be eliminated in the qualifying stages. For the same reason most English fans have little affection for Owen Hargreaves, it doesn’t matter that he is English, the fact that he plays for Bayern means we don’t know enough about him, and cannot identify with him

And then there is the fact that England play the type of game we want to watch. The Premiership has a unique style of football: physical, constantly on the offensive, and never giving up. As Arsene Wenger has pointed out, this has nothing to do with the nationality of the players, and he never ceases to be amazed how South American and Continental European players start to play the English way after a few weeks. It is what the fans expect.


world champ stephen neal said...

It's about time that the proletariat raises it's collective voice. Keep it up.

Thanks for the great comments. Come back any time.


sappho said...

Great blog! Glad I found you! Stop by and visit The Sappho Manifesto anytime!
Fellow Comrade,

Renegade Eye said...

War is war, and football is football.

Good post.

Salman Shaheen said...

Good argument Andy, I'd largely agree with you. Not being a football fan, I'm fairly ambivalent about the World Cup, though won't be wishing England to lose for any anti-nationalistic reasons. I did, however, want England to go out as soon as possible in Euro 2004, as at the time I was working in a pub, and I was fed up with drunken twats throwing glasses about the place. I don't know why football seems to turn otherwise fairly alright people into lumpens everytime it comes on the TV.

Salman Shaheen said...

Incidentally, nice line by Attila the Stockbroker:

"Don't tell me it's not about politics, because politics and sport don't mix."

He wasn't talking about war though, more corporate takeovers of football teams, which he updated for the Glazer issue.


Salman Shaheen said...

Hey Sappho, why not give us a link on your blog man, I'm sure we can reciprocate.

Reuben_the_communist said...

great post andy. Couldnt agree more - in the past my dad has this aggrevating habit of Supporting whoever englnd are playing.
People who dont like football are wankers ;)

AN said...

I think Salman's question is interesting, because other sports do not have the same association with hooligan and loutish behaviour.
Actually i think it is as much to do with English culture - which celebrates drinking and fighting, enjoys adversity. Again Arsene Wenger has said: "Look it is in the blood of the English, it's this almost military attitude with which they approach everything"

I remember back in 1990 when England were knocked out in the semis there was a lot of violence in Bristol, and some people threw this at me as proof of extreme nationlism. But at closer inspection it was fighting between City and Rovers fans - cos they were drunk and hate each other, and just enjoy fighting.

personaly i think the Premiership is much better entertainment.than for example the Seria A (and although there is bung culture in English football, it is nothing to the level of corruption recently exposed in Italy). This is a judgement shared by many foreigners as well.
For example, Pierlugi Collina, the referee in the 2002 World Cup fnal has said that the game is much better and respect for referees much better in England. But most importnatly he added: "I'm talking in terms of football culture, not society as a whole. If you are talking about society as a whole, well i don't think Italy has anything to learn from England."

AN said...

And reuben, you have been found guilty of gender assumptions, by calling sappho a man.
Didn't something about the name Sappho alert you she might be a woman???

Salman Shaheen said...

Actually it was me who said man, and it's a friendly term, as in mate, or comrade. Where were you in the 60's eh? ;) Just me being a bloody hippy...

PS. Sappho could just have a respect for the inhabitants of certain islands in Ancient Greece, and not be using the term as a form of gender of sexuality identification. I therefore find you guilty of anti-Greek island inhabitant assumptions. :)

Jim Jay said...

"other sports do not have the same association with hooligan and loutish behaviour. Actually i think it is as much to do with English culture - which celebrates drinking and fighting, enjoys adversity"

Isn't this contradictory? It's to do with being English and other sports don't have the same problem?

I mean cricket violence is pretty unlikely because everyone would be asleep by the time the game ended. There was no accompanying violence when those women won a medal for that game where you throw a stone along ice and brush in front of it - although it did make me feel like smashing something.

AN said...

Salman asked: "Where were you in the 60's eh? ;) Just me being a bloody hippy..."

In the wise words of Sid Vicious when asked whrere he was during the summer of love: "too busy playing with my Action Man"

AN said...

Yes Jim I spootted that contradiction when i wrote it, and I still think both parts are true.

i don't know the answer, perhaps it is becasuue footbal has a more working class following.

Jim Jay said...

Are most football hooligans working class? I thought there was some doubt about that... I remember reading a lefty article explaining how they were all stockbrokers, petty bourg. or unemployed...

Anyway I'm sure most cricket fans are working class. Deluded, but working class.

Snowball said...

For my sins, I have defended the international socialist position of 'Anyone but England' during the world cup here:


AN said...

Thanks Snowball, it is a well argued case, and useful to me as I am writing a more substantial article on the subject and it is good to have an intelligent exposition of the "anyone but England" position.

Please note that I do not say, as you claim, that socilists SHOULD support England. You can support anyone you like what has it got to do with me?

And I also note you say i have abandoned marxism. You flatterer.

sappho said...

Thanks for the interest, I found the back-and-forth between you and An amusing!! :)
And I understood your hippie reference to the term,"man". No offense taken here!
Not only am I a lesbian, I am also half Greek. So the name Sappho suits me very well!
Stop by and visit anytime Salman!

Jim Jay said...

Excellent discussion on this in this month's Red Pepper

Anyone but Ingerland?

Some people on the left have difficulty distinguishing between supporting the England football team and supporting the BNP. Mark Perryman and Mike Marqusee debate the issue

Reidski said...

An excellent little piece

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