Sunday, June 20, 2010

Britons unite

A really bizarre article on the New Statesman blog the other day.

James Macintyre offering his arguments in favour of a British football team:
The reason I do not support England has nothing to do with its abilities, dire though they are (I will be very surprised indeed if it gets any further than the quarter final in Africa). No, it is because there is no logic at all in its existence.

We all belong -- for now at least -- to the United Kingdom. There is a "Team GB" British side in the Olympics. So why not in international football?

Englishness is ultimately, alas, a racial brand. Britishness, on the other hand, is cultural. Most first -- or even, dare it be said, second -- generation foreigners who live here can comfortably consider themselves British, but less so English. I, for example, am roughly three-quarter Canadian and a quarter Scottish.

My Scottish descent but London up-bringing makes me Anglo-Scottish, and therefore British, not English.

Which is why I feel like a stranger in my own land amid the creepy mass influx of St. George's flags -- by definition exclusive emblems -- that are now prevalent in cars and house windows. And why I felt so queesy at the Prime Minister, David Cameron's populist decision to fly the red and white flag over Downing Street during England's -- albeit limited -- "campaign". That the Union is under much more threat under the Conservatives (increasingly the English party) is another story, and I won't go into it here.

But it is because of a growing fear for the future of the Scottish-English Union -- one that represents 300 years of rich social, cultural and political integration -- that I hope one day to be able to cheer on British goals in the World Cup. And do so with great pride and patriotism.

(Doubtless, some of the many attacks such a view would provoke, will be that such a side would only be Englandm players plus Ryan Giggs of Wales. And it is true that -- apart from, say Colin Hendry and Ally McCoist -- it isn't easy for someone whose close interest in football has tragically waned over the years, to think of a British squad today that would be that much better than England's. But that is not the point.)

It's time to replace English aggression with open, generous British unity, before it's too late.
Easy of course to write such pieces during a World Cup hoping for a reaction – we’ve seen a few them this side of the border as well.

And always nice for a political hack to get his teeth into something else and play devil’s advocate.

But it does tend to work slightly better if the author has some knowledge of football. As it does this doesn't even come across well as the tongue-in-cheek piece I suspect was intended.

And it takes a certain arrogance – however Anglo-Scottish the author – to argue for the abolition of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish footballing identities because you’re not comfortable with English aggression.

Sorry James, but leave the football to Hunter Davies from now on.

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