Week [19]66 – World Cup Fever

These days, I don’t like football as much as I used to. It must be the first time in my life that I haven’t experienced the feeling of excitement and suspense as the World Cup explodes into action. With England’s first game up against the USA, I had no choice but to go out proudly wearing my Scotland t-shirt. The crowds that had descended upon central London looked pretty confused.

As I stood outside a bar in Leicester Square at half-time, my skepticism in footballing culture was proved correct. As some Hare Krishna’s walked past, they were greeted with chants of “Who are ya? Who are ya?” and “Sit down shut up! Sit down shut up!” Really, the biggest possible criticism you could have of Hare Krishna’s is “they’re a bit crazy”, but I thought the treatment was a bit harsh for people who give out hot meals for free and meditate in a temple. It was particularly ironic to see one of the drunk fans shouting “Scum!” as the robed monks continued on their way.

This is my point – the line between nationalism and racism is too thin. Any nation that England loses to, and the list is extremely long, immediately becomes the target of the hatred of millions. Margaret Thatcher would probably have declared war over a dodgy penalty decision. I don’t see any reason to be proud of our flag – the English flag that has represented centuries of imperialism and colonialism for millions of people across the world. The same flag now being expropriated by the thugs of the so-called “English Defence League”, who unfortunately cancelled their march through Tower Hamlets this week-end. Unfortunate, because it would have been the end of the EDL.

With the clash of the two world-ruiners a big disappointment, I was pleased to see that England’s second encounter offered me a lot more choice for support, in the form of Algeria. A trip to Edgware Road was the order of the day, and I’ve never been so happy to see a 0-0 draw. My brother had also just finished his GCSE exams, so there were two reasons to celebrate. I sounded my car horn in appreciation for most of the journey home.

The next day, I was back in the area for a festival on Golborne Road. The police had a tent inappropriately set-up, teaching kids how to fingerprint themselves. As Lupe Fiasco would say, “give ’em gum, give ’em guns, get ’em young, give ’em fun!” George Orwell would be turning in his grave.

The Metropolitan Police… yet another reason not to be proud of my country. Or as Lupe concludes:

“…they ain’t living properly /
break ’em off a little democracy /
turn their whole culture to a mockery /
give ’em Coca-Cola for their property…”

As if the World Cup hadn’t given me enough food-for-thought, I then heard the news that thousands of South Africans had been evicted from their homes and relocated to Blikkiesdorp, which the residents have described as a concentration camp, to make way for the construction of new football stadiums. So, it seems that Coca-Cola will be the only real victors in the “tournament of dreams”.

24 responses to “Week [19]66 – World Cup Fever

  1. I was in a fight, then a soccer game broke out

  2. Tanveer Hussain

    interesting read man! keep it up🙂

  3. I couldn’t of put it any better, especially the paragraph about finding nothing to be proud of when it comes to the English flag.

  4. Amazing read Jody!!!!!

  5. As I am half English, have lived my entire life in England and only am half Australian by virtue of my father people often ask me why I support the latter, and why I seem to acquire a perverse delight whenever England falter.

    The truth is that I’m not proud of England, I’m not proud of the flag, I’m not proud of the overpaid footballers who wear the English shirt and I’m not proud of the supporters, who like the ones you saw on the streets the other day, do nothing for the British image.

    We have some great minds in England and a lot to be proud of. But when it comes to the X Factor, Britains got talent and Sport, count me out.

    Although then again the Australian record is not too great either, I’m half Scottish as well, maybe I should join you next time England are playing

  6. this sounds great.. you are right its really hard these days to find people who genuinely like each other regardless of their cultural differences. It’s like the new generation adapts a certain idea of each culture and that’s no good for the future…

  7. I had to write an essay about whether or not nationalism has a place in today’s multi-cultural society. It is an interesting question, I was torn between the instinct that people should be proud of their heritage and my opinions of what certain countries represent. I spoke about this recently with my friends too because I bought a South Africa flag phone cover and was asked if being half (white) South African was something to be proud of. My reply was that although terrible things happened in South Africa, it was also the home of one of my heroes, Nelson Mandela, and one of the most successful rights and equality movements in modern times. It gives me hope that a peaceful solution will one day be reached in Israel/Palestine. I think that people should be proud of their heritage as long as they are good, and their nation has achieved great things. I think many things that Britain represents, and always has represented, are contrary to my own beliefs but there are many things to be proud of about being British, as long as you make an effort to change the things you believe are wrong. But as you say, the line between nationalism and racism is thin for the ignorant, and Britain is certainly full of ignorant people.

  8. Hi Jody,

    I ca see you are keeping very busy. I am still in Gaza waiting for a permission by the fu…ng Egypt to enter their country. If I had a Israeli passport they would roll the red carpet out.
    Anyway, I love what you write. I often pass similar comments about the nationalistic hysteria intertwined with the love of football and I am told that I am just too serious and a spoil sport.
    Salamat for Gaza the glorious!

  9. Very deep stuff Jody. :))
    I’m amazed by your outlook on life :)) i have brothers ur age and i wish they perceive life the way u do. What’s ur secret? :))

    Nothing is exciting anymore. I mean, for once i would want to turn on the T.V and not hear about ppl. killing one another. I fear for the future. It looks like its not going to get any better. :((

  10. Phil Haines

    Shame you can see no reason to be proud of our flag. You mentioned George Orwell: he was born, Eric Blair, in Colonial India, schooled at Eton and a police officer in Burma. Eric His pen name was George Orwell showing his deep affection for English tradition ( George after King George V and Orwell after the Suffolk river).
    The flag flying over the empire was the Union Jack, the flag representing the Union under James VI, King of the Scots….

  11. Sharmila Sengupta

    Heard you speak at the demo on Saturday.You were terrific.Subscribed to your blog that very day.The fact that people like you exist helps restore one’s faith in humanity.My angry young 14-year-old daughter found you totally inspiring.We are members of Merton PSC.Perhaps you could come and speak in Wimbledon sometime.

  12. I completely agree Jody, i look forward to reading more from you

  13. I agree utterly with your sentiments. In the run up to the cup I was thinking about how twisted it was that it was being held in a country with such serious problems, which really makes it quite an insult to south africans. So it was good to see the War on Want bringing out some great stuff on it, even just for the knowledge that I wasn’t alone

  14. Koushick Talukdar

    Very nice blog mate this is some DEEP content.

    I understand that England’s past is nothing to be proud about, however when you see all those people holding up the England flag and chanting out “COME ON ENGLAND!” do you really think that those people are remembering the Imperialism and slavery behind England’s PAST? Hell, who knows, most of those people might be so dumb that they wouldn’t even know what happened in the 2 world wars let alone the murders done by the Crusaders in the 13th century.

    And comment about those people displaced in South Africa due the construction of some of the stadiums: Frankly, in this severely flawed world, I’m not surprised at all; I’m disgusted.

  15. Come on Jody, I read a lot of your writing and I usually agree but don’t attack football because of some louts and the EDL.
    Is every football fan a racist hooligan?

    I like to believe that the world would be a much better place with no borders but an international sports tournament is a fun distraction from the awfulness of the real world. And it does bring people together.
    In the case of the vilification of any team that beats England; it’s the right-wing tabloids who should be your target, not football.
    In the case of those hooligans you saw who abused the Hare Krishnas; those specific individuals are your targets, not football.

    If I enjoy taking a side in a sporting event am I an EDL hooligan? No, that’s generalising. It’s not England’s fault, it’s not football’s fault, it’s not the World Cup’s fault, it’s the fault of individuals.

  16. Jody:

    I saw your talk at UC Santa Cruz with Finkelstein. Thanks for dropping by.

    I think when you say “the line between nationalism and racism is too thin” you are presupposing that nationalism and racism are two different things. But what is a nation? Aren’t nations and the concept of states intertwined with distinct ethnicities and cultures?

    I don’t think that is the best way to define a state, but many people do that.

  17. Good points man. I agree with you we shouldn’t let a small minority ruin our fun, but I think it’s an interesting topic to discuss.

  18. Hi Jody,

    Can I just reiterate my absolute delight at meeting you on sunday, (Golborne Festival)

    You article is very thought provoking. Football is the beautiful game but it does have its ugly side! Thanks for bringing them to our attention, it is important to know. World cup follower or not!!

    PS I totally meant what i said about stopping over for tea if your travelling in/out of Heathrow!!

  19. Very interesting article. Although I do think that the tournament does bring people together and has many positive elements to it, unfortunately consumerism, corporate sponsorship and all else that dominates in a capitalist driven world taints it a great deal.

    Just a thought though, would you fee the same if Scotland had qualified..? Although I am anti-nationalistic and don’t feel any really strong ties to any country as such, my father is Glaswegian and I would love to see Scotland do well in the World Cup one day! I think a tournament like this brings some fun and a distraction to people and I have really enjoyed watching the games so far.

  20. Jode – Phils right mate – you confused Georges Cross with Union flag. Kind of kills the symbological aspect of your argument but yes, Empire does has a lot of bad to answer for (along with all the good stuff too) The George cross was flying however at Agincourt when the English whooped those filthy Frenchies who incidentally JUST GOT KICKED OUT OF THE CUP!!! Wooohoooo. That’ll serve them right for cheating against Ireland in teh qualifiers!!

    But seriously – I think good hearted nationalism is healthy enough – its just lager-lout football scum that give English a bad name. AMericans have the same problem – the overwhelming majority of folk are thickos that extract their opinions from the papers the read (or channel they watch in US). But then its the only way the governments can do whatever they like…

    I am disappointed you dont feel so excited this World Cup – but I guess you are weighed down by Palestine situation so that affects your mood. One thing that had a profound effect on me was when I read about nutter Islamic fundamentalists in Somalia punishing anyone that is caught watching the football. They were taken out and publicly flogged!! This broke my heart as I know for many less fortunate souls across the globe, the world cup is a chance to forget their daily struggle and feel good for a while!! I guess those EDL blokes dont want that happening here!!!

    Crazy world mate – youll go crazy if you think about it too much!!

    Anyway mate – would be good to see you and Fin soon!!

    J

  21. Ketty Papadima

    Great blog, Jody!
    come back to Ottawa soon!

  22. You’re right you can’t tar everyone with the same brush. But I don’t believe you can’t blame the world Cup and use it as a “distraction” from the outside world. Brings people together? tell that to the displacement of the poverty stricken people in South Africa, so the games can go ahead. Like Jody said, the real winners are Coca Cola.

  23. Shirley Clarke-McIntyre

    I was born in England, spent most of my life there and have mostly happy memories. However, I can’t say that I’m proud of England. Soccer hooligans, yobbos and chavs make me ashamed sometimes to have an English accent.
    Returning home to London after trips abroad would reduce me to tears. Now living in Australia returning home to Melbourne is something that I look forward to. I can’t see old Blighty changing in any time soon. Sad, sad.

  24. Hi Jody.

    I couldn’t agree more with your feelings about football. I have always felt that the game turned otherwise reasonable people into pigs and since my early childhood I have wanted nothing to do with it.

    I heard you speak at a demo outside the israeli embassy and I’m happy to have discovered your existence.

    Hopefully we will run into each other one day. Maybe on a Friday morning in Bil’in.

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