The World Cup is just around the corner, and once again everyone seems to be gearing up for it. There’s a pub in Chelmsford that has a huge England flag draped over it, and as you drive around any town or city in the country you see more and more of those cheap car-flags that clip to car windows.
I don’t know why it annoys me, but it does. I should be happy that people are taking pride in their country, and that the fervour and patriotism isn’t being stopped by the PC brigade, but I’m not. I think that essentially part of me sees it as very anti-English. Whatever happened to a stiff upper lip, a quiet confidence and a determination not to be loud and brash?
It also frustrates me that people get hyped up every four years or so for no real reason other than sport. Sure, follow the England team. We all hope they do well, but if you’re are truly proud of your country then fly the flag all year every year. Not just for a couple of months leading up to an inevitable Semi Final defeat in the World Cup.
Or perhaps I just dislike the fact that the whole country sets itself up for a fall. The newspapers, the tv and the radio all push our hopes up. We all get hooked on what may happen, and start thinking that this year is our year. People who know nothing about the game will start commenting on it, repeating whatever it is that the Sun is telling them about the matches, or whatever soundbite the commentators on tv have provided. And when we do finally bow out everyone has an initial outburst of what went wrong, why it went wrong and how hard done by we all are before, just a few hours later, everything is forgotten and no-one mentions it again. The Final comes and gos yet no-one refers to it, and the St Georges flags hang idly in all weather, staying out past their welcome and mocking every English supporter that passes by.
I love the World Cup, I just wish that it didn’t have to be pushed onto so many people. And as a football fan (nay, a West Ham fan “we won the World Cup in 1966” and all that shit) I always fight with myself between wanting the national team to do well, while all the time quietly hating most of the players on the team. I can’t even begin to convey the mixed emotions of wanting England to win while at the same time hoping Lampard fails dramatically, or being disappointed when the team concedes a silly goal, but quietly relieved that it was a Spurs defender that cocked up.
A Spurs supporting friend of mine once told me that West Ham fans get more pleasure out of the failure of other teams than they do out of their own success. My retort was simply that this was true - West Ham have had no real success in the past 30 years (aside from a Play Off win and the InterToto Cup), and to take satisfaction from the misery of rivals is a natural and very enjoyable trait.
My prediction for the World Cup? England will get through the group stages with a couple of wins and a draw or loss (probably in the opening game against the USA) that will make things looks precarious for a little while. Injuries and suspensions will see a couple of changes to the first team in the last 16 game, which they will play well and fight hard to win by a couple of goals before going out to a better team by a single goal in the Quarter Finals.
Afterwards, the World will keep spinning, life will go on and - hopefully - people will take down their England flags in good time