Home News Because I enjoyed seeing England lose the European Championship – Patrick Gathara

Because I enjoyed seeing England lose the European Championship – Patrick Gathara

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A terrible defeat of the England national team following a campaign of excessive exaltation is now a classic in international football competitions. In this sense, the final of Euro 2020 was a confirmation.

“It’s coming home (it’s coming home),” the British media and commentators had announced. Even meteorologists had been enlisted to serve the nation, making comparisons to weather conditions during the 1966 World Cup final, the last time the England national team had come to the end of a major international tournament.

I watched the game with great tension. I was desperate when England took the lead in the first few minutes and cheered after Italy’s equalizer. The penalties that decided the game were just as tense. Only at the last penalty did I breathe a sigh of relief: Italy was champion, while England writhed in the throes of an all-too-familiar self-humiliation.

Shortly thereafter, reports came of racist crowds of white English fans attacking the Italians and black Englishmen who had watched the match. The three young black English players who missed their penalties also had to suffer terrible violence on the net, prompting the Football Association and Prime Minister Boris Johnson to issue condemnation statements.

Football has always seemed to inspire the best and the worst in many countries. But why did a Kenyan like me, looking at Europeans thousands of miles away, feel so caught up in English pain? English fans are not the only ones in the world to behave abominably. Racism is rife in all European clubs and in international football, and fan violence is always around the corner.

Such behavior will always provoke resentment, but in the seemingly unique English case, arrogance, the belief that it is all due and empty bravado combined with a history of domination and violence towards the rest of the world merge. All of this causes a special kind of hostility. “England is judged by a different standard than other countries,” Irish writer Lee Hurley noted in 2018 in an article on the origins of England’s accusations of arrogance at the World Cup.

As it turns out, every year the world must witness the British fight their chest over their team’s latest failure and call for 1966, the last time the country won a major international football trophy. This often borders on the involuntary comedian and inspires the derision of others. The National, a Scottish independence newspaper, on the eve of the European final put on the front page a photo of the Italian coach Roberto Mancini portrayed as the Scottish hero William Wallace and wrote: “Roberto save us. You are our last hope (we could not bear them being beaten for another 55 years) ”.

Sometimes, however, this English fixation on winning a football trophy can also be perceived as a profound bewilderment over an unfinished destiny, an extension of the idea that the British were born to dominate the world. Of course, the same could be said of Brazil and the stories of fans who have had heart attacks after defeats at the World Cup. But Brazil has not sailed around the world brutalizing and plundering entire countries and at the same time presenting itself as the pinnacle of human ingenuity. The British are judged through the lens of their own history.

Other former colonial powers also participated in the European football championships. Spaniards, French, Belgians and Portuguese have equally terrible histories and have behaved equally badly. However, the ability to project their voices into the global media is far less than that of the British who, together with their US cousins, can overshadow any other people. The echo of the media means that people from all over the world, and especially from the English-speaking world, are constantly assaulted by British and English self-representations often at odds with their lived experiences of colonial rule.

The cup does not come home
In these circumstances, even apparently trivial and harmless episodes intended to define the mood of a nation can take on threatening shades. Let’s take the slogan “It’s coming home”, Which is a verse from a self-deprecating 1996 song composed by two comedians. For many Brits it is a harmless slogan, similar to those used by fans when they call their teams the best in the world. Greece, for example, chose “Welcome home” (welcome home) as the official motto of the 2004 Olympic Games. However, people outside England had a different feeling. “For many around the world, especially those who still live a post-colonial legacy,” writes Hurley, “the England national football team is a symbol of the British state. Unsurprisingly, some people are not so fond of England when it appears on the world stage. And when England starts talking about getting something back to its rightful place, well, you can understand how this can cause some problems ”.

In the wake of the US movement Black lives matter, which shook the world with its demands to rethink the stories of slavery and colonial oppression, slogans like “It’s coming homeMay seem completely out of place. And they sound even worse in the context of a nation that steadfastly refuses to reexamine its past and instead appears to glorify “the empire,” while its political leaders encourage fans to boo at players who take a stand against the iniquity of the system.

Unlike Italy, England fielded one of the most ethnically diverse teams in the tournament, and all but four of the players in the final were of foreign origin. As Clint Smith said in The Atlantic, the 2021 national team is very different from the all-white team that won the World Cup more than half a century ago and, in various respects, its ethnic composition differs from the predominantly white country it represents. . It is a team adopted by many marginalized minority communities of England as proof of their inclusion, their belonging and their contribution to the country. Even though Smith is neither English nor living in England, he captures the feelings of many when he says: “Maybe I’m cheering less for England and more for the kind of future this new generation of footballers represents.”

A certain Tariq Jenner su Twitter expressed the same thing more directly: “I want England to win, because I want this young team of anti-racists, who fought for their ideals and for the less fortunate of them despite the whistles and intimidation, to win. . Not because I feel that this little garbage from a rainy country deserves it ”.

As a human being, I feel sorry for the England players, on whose young shoulders the unjust burdens of the country’s history and its hopes of redemption have been loaded. Yet despite this heavy burden, they electrified the game and the tournament. Congratulations. As a Kenyan, however, I will not hide my share of the good-natured much Schadenfreude for the troubles and the inevitable British self-flagellations. And I look forward to the next World Cup, when we can do this all over again.

(Translation by Federico Ferrone)


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