Saturday, June 19, 2010

In search of a new flag

British high street retailer HMV has announced the withdrawl of T-shirts and posters with the slogan
ANYONE BUT ENGLAND from its stores across Scotland, reportedly following complaints that they were racist, but perhaps also because they've detected a growing market for this kind of "criminally irresponsible" product across the border in Enger-land itself.

During this World Cup English people don't need to head north in order to get beaten up, because just watching our national team's passing game has felt like being set upon by a rampaging mob of Jocks with wooden clubs.

How great we once felt when, having ejected those two incompetent Scotsmen from Nos 10 and 11 respectively, new PM David Cameron declared that the flag of St George would be flying over Downing Street this no extra cost to the taxpayer.

After yesterday's horror show I'm giving serious consideration to the idea of packing up my own flags, sticking a pin in that inflateable hand, and picking a new team to support in South Africa. The trouble is...which one?

Now I like the jogo bonito as much as anyone else, and Brazil were indeed my second team throughout all previous Mundiales up to perhaps 2006, but Dunga's workaday bunch are conspicuously incomparable with the '82 squad of fondest memory lead by the magnificent Socrates. And Kaká appears to be continuing where he left off with Real Madrid last season.

Anyway, as our love affair with our own team fades into indifference (and perhaps even loathing), one of the great hate figures of all time in our national consciousness is experiencing an unlikely rehabilitation. After nearly 30 years memories of the Falklands War and the Hand of God seem to have faded sufficiently for us to admit that Diego Maradonna has brought a certain feckless charm to an event FIFA appears determined to keep humourless.

His strenuous denials of limp-wristedness to the gathered media on Thursday were hilarious. Anyway, here's a clip for all those who, like Don Marco, believe the beautiful game to be intrinsically more "effeminate" than rugby, gridiron, kick-boxing etc.

Could I then contemplate cheering on the Argies? Perhaps....against the Germans or the Italians for sure, but there are still other more inherently likeable teams from this hemisphere in the competition, such as Chile and Mexico (and to a lesser extent, Paraguay.)

And what of Spain? They were my first/second team for Euro 2008 (England having already disgraced themselves before they'd had a chance to subject the country to a summer of misery and disappointment) but they were still the perennial underdog underachievers back then.

This time however, they've arrived as clear favourites, having only lost to the USA in 49 previous matches. Watching them stroke the ball around the midfield in tight little triangles against Switzerland I was immediately reminded of the brilliant but un-loveable FC Barcelona, and was thus rather satisfied when the Swiss did a bit of a number on them.

I still think it highly unlikely that a European team will be crowned as World Champions this time round, and it remains to be seen how many African nations even make it through to the knock-out stages. The Asians are game, but lack the extra quality required, so the Latins do seem like the safest bet still, but I have a sneaking suspicion that those other chronic nearly men, the Dutch, may just make a proper impact in 2010.

At half time during the Algeria match last night we switched over to ESPN where they were repeating the conclusion of Andy Murray's comprehensive defeat against Roger Federer in the final of this year's Australian Open. On one level this was a timely reminder of British sporting over-anticipation and ultimate underachievement.

But then I remembered that Murray is of course a Scot and has made no secret of hanging out with members of whichever nation happen to be taking on England at the time. He probably even has one of those t-shirts and will turn up to Wimbledon on Monday wearing it.

1 comment:

Mark said...

At least you're not French...