Monday, 28 June 2010

Anyone but England

Oh England, England, England – why are you doing this to yourself? Why are you doing this to me?

I tried so hard, believe me. When anyone asked me who I was supporting in the World Cup I'd dutifully say, South Africa first (it was my home for 12 years and I still have lots of friends there), then the other African nations, Spain (it's the height of bad manners to live in a country and not support its national team) and...England! No, I was not going to be a part of the Anyone But England crowd. I was brought up next door to the country, have English relatives and lived in North London for two years. By the time I realised that I was never going to find a Londoner who didn't say, “I 'ate the bloody Welsh” on hearing my nationality, my reason for living there had expired, however. Yet how stupid would it be to find that you were supporting North Korea for no other reason than they were playing the hated English?

Why do so many Scots and Welsh have this attitude? Well, obviously the Irish had the potato famine, which was no picnic by anyone's standards, but we other Celtic nations have more recent reasons for feeling disgruntled.

Imagine that on the same weekend that the English rugby team had a match against the Walloon All Stars, the Welsh were playing the All Blacks and the Scottish team was up against the Wallabies. What do you imagine the sports presenters would be discussing? Trust me, we'd be treated to an interview with Toby Flood's former sports teacher, a feature about what brand of underpants Jonny Wilkinson favours on match day and a half hour discussion of the history of the Walloon All Stars and their enormous importance in the world of rugby union. Maybe at the end of the coverage it might be mentioned that Scotland was playing the Aussies and the Welsh were up against the Kiwis – or maybe not. Next year, when the Six Nations Championship is taking place do yourselves – and me – a favour and look at the sports coverage through the eyes of a Celt.

Then there's poor old Andy Murray. He really hates England doesn't he? In fact – didn't he INVENT the phrase “anyone but England”? Well, yes and no. The incident that sparked the infamous comment has been largely forgotten. During the early part of 2006 Murray was being interviewed with Tim Henman when the conversation turned to England's World Cup prospects. Henman took the opportunity to subject Murray to some good-natured ribbing about Scotland's failure to qualify after which one of the presenters asked him who he would be supporting in the World Cup. “Anyone but England, obviously,” said Murray, who was laughing at the time. Yes, LAUGHING! IT WAS A JOKE! I bet that if he'd realised that this would still be dredged up four years later to label him anti-English, he would have sooner bitten through his own leg than uttered a word. Since then we've been treated to a whole raft of “Andy hates England” stories, the latest of which seems to be, “Andy hates the Queen”. All total crap of course but, hey, God forbid that veracity should stand in the path of a good anti-Scottish story.

Which comes to the particularly ugly lead-up to England's latest face-off with Germany. Now, I admit to finding history rather interesting but am no Simon Schama. However, I was rather under the impression that we were no longer at war with Germany. Didn't we settle that bit of unpleasantness in 1945? If I'm correct please would someone contact the editors of The Sun and The Daily Star and remind them because I think that they've forgotten.

Tired headlines like “Herr We Go Again” are bad enough, but the incident that really finished the burgeoning relationship between the English football team and me was the loathesome Stan Boardman's appearance on Radio 5 Live on Friday 25th June. Allowing the pig-ignorant brute to share his alleged comic skills with the nation can obviously be defended under the banner of freedom of speech, but his behaviour towards his fellow guest, the comedian Sean Lock, marked a new low, even by his rectal standards of taste.

Boardman's claim that the German-baiting was just a bit of good-natured fun was contrasted with Lock's belief that we should really offer the whole anti-German thing the humane killer. Hearing that Lock's grandmother was a Holocaust survivor Boardman continued to harass him by repeating, “Where are you from?”, this question rising in volume until Lock (who has always struck me as being able to punch well above his weight) finally cracked and said, “I'm British”; at which point Boardman shouted, in a truly terrible cod German accent, “Und vere are your papers?!”

Eventually even this prize git seemed to realise that he'd gone too far and resumed his previous catchphrase: “Oh go on, it's just a laugh, innit, for God's sake. IT'S JUST A BIT OF A LAUGH!”

Yes, Stan, it's bloody hilarious. I recognise that type of humour. When at primary school one of the older boys used to push me against the wall and slap me across the face. That was a right laugh as well. Laugh? I nearly split my lip.

So, goodbye England. It was a very brief romance and will be unlikely to be resumed at a later date. It was like accepting a date from that dodgy bloke in Sales, under the impression that behind his crass and gittish exterior was something rather more sensitive and worthwhile – and being sadly disappointed.

Farewell JT, goodbye Lamps, so long Defoe, goodbye Rooney – you must go on without my support.

Now who do I want to win the World Cup?

Well, anyone but England will do me nicely, thanks.