Wednesday 23 June 2010

Camaraderie Continues As England Delay The Inevitable

So England have scraped through to the last 16 of the World Cup and it's a measure of their indifferent performance so far that a decidedly average match (better than some of the ground-out goalless draws I've seen so far, but still uninspiring) is likely to be hailed as a triumph by the press. James Corden's unbelievably shite post-match programme on ITV will be even worse than it usually is.

Even though I'm a neutral, I made time today to watch the game with work colleagues and I still find it hard to understand the vitriol expressed by some on the left against supporting England, whether it's an ill-judged rant or dubious Marxist analysis against football in general, complete with a typically authoritarian assertion that "nobody serious about political change can shirk the fact that the game has to be abolished".

Football may well, as Terry Eagleton claims, have replaced religion as a new 'opium of the people', at least in more secular societies, but we live in a world where the vast majority crave the ‘spiritual aroma’ that only sport, and football in particular on a global level, can begin to provide. Anyone who loves the game will understand that it does, albeit briefly, often seem like "the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions". So yes, modern football has undoubtedly been shaped and distorted by capitalism, but it's hard to think of anything in society that hasn't. But puritanically lecturing people that they are wrong about their illusions, as Eagleton does, isn't going to help change the world and creating conditions where illusions are no longer necessary doesn't happen without convincing alternatives - which Marxists like Eagleton have repeatedly failed to offer.

Gary Younge is, I think, right to acknowledge how much football has changed over the last thirty years and I can completely understand why most of my Asian friends have no trouble reconciling support for India or Pakistan cricket teams with cheering on England in South Africa. I'm not convinced by arguments that say this reflects a need to prove an affiliation with 'Englishness', which is still probably the most difficult cultural identity anywhere in the world to accurately define with any level of agreement. But even I can see that supporting England is undoubtedly about camaraderie and a sense of togetherness, as even the most jaundiced observer must have noticed over the last couple of weeks if they don't inhabit the world of either the media or academia.

Moreover, supporting England definitely seems like an entirely familiar, everyday expression of collective solidarity in the face of adversity, not least because most supporters know perfectly well that the England team - this one as much as others before it - are middle rank at best and extremely unlikely to win the World Cup.

Based on the three games of the first round, it is only a matter of time before the England team are on their way home. At that point, my guess is that much of the the camaraderie will remain, the period of mourning will be brief and we will see far less of a drop in interest in the remainder of the tournament than there has perhaps been in previous years. That's undoubtedly what a more globalised world has helped create. At that point, I'm looking forward to welcoming a new and much larger group of neutrals to the debate on the best team playing in South Africa.

And if possible, I hope that Argentina meet Brazil in the final. That would be a great reminder of how football can occasionally represent heart and soul in the midst of a heartless and soulless world.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

I love to see a live Brazil match, there is an art about the way they play.

I was impressed with the USA team, because they showed guts. They were loosing 0-2. Most teams would have given up and lost faith, but not the USA. Then out of no where they have leveled the score to 2-2. I am not sure, but it teams you something about the american hard headed ness. Like Bill Clinton, it is strength of mind over body.

Random Blowe | Original articles licensed under a Creative Commons License.