Why I won’t be cheering for England

The build-up to a big match

The build-up to a big match

It might surprise some people outside of the UK, but not everyone in Britain will be cheering for England in the upcoming World Cup. A majority of Scots for example will be honorary Algerians, Americans and Slovenians over the coming weeks, hoping to see their southern neighbours humbled by supposedly lesser football opponents and sent home early with their tails between their legs.

And the complications don’t end there. England has a very diverse population, and across the country you will find nationals of each of the other 31 competing countries (even a North Korean somewhere, I’m sure!) who will be cheering for their home team. First and second generation immigrants too may have split loyalties which come to the surface every few years, inspired by 11 men from their nation aiming for footballing glory.

So it is with me. I can now class myself as indifferent to England’s progress, and that’s a major step up from my childhood when I was the only kid in school who was not cheering on England during the big matches. Although I was born here, my parents came here from Poland in the late 1940s, and introduced us to the Polish language and culture from early childhood. At the time Poland had a good football team and were in the habit of beating England in crucial matches. As regular rivals, Poland’s fortunes would often depend on England’s failures and vice versa.

While England’s fortunes have bumped along at the same level for many years, Poland’s team nosedived after the early 80s and have been pretty much useless ever since. But my conflicts with friends over football in my formative years left their mark, and I’ve never been able to embrace England as my favoured team.

I’m a huge football fan and will take any chance to watch an England game. I even watched a couple of internationals at Wembley as a teenager and quietly cheered on the opposition (although I’m something of a lucky mascot for England as I saw them win both times without conceding a goal). And now while I enjoy the atmosphere in the country when England are on a run and make it to the latter stages of a competition, my enjoyment of the World Cup is not dependent on the home team’s success.

I know I’m not alone. There are many thousands of others, first and second generation immigrants, who will choose to watch the matches in their own homes, rather than in a bar with a vocal partisan crowd. We can enjoy the great goals, whoever scores them. And when the England team fly home without a trophy (as even the majority of loyal England fans believe they will) we might not raise a glass to their victors, as they surely will in Scotland; but neither will we wallow in despair and indulge in blame and conspiracy theories.

For many in England, interest in the World Cup ends when their team is eliminated; I’m sure that’s true in most countries. As a football-loving neutral, the progress of the England team and the inevitable penalty shoot-out drama is merely a fascinating sideshow in the best sporting event in the world.

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9 Responses to “Why I won’t be cheering for England”

  1. You probably wouldn’t want to go drinking in Rhyl, or to a supermarket in Bangor (bot in Wales) then!

    Taken from:

    June 6, 2010 at 8:53 pm Reply
  2. Mark #

    I don’t know what games you were watching but England have played Poland 17 times over the years and Poland have one only once, and even that was in 1973. Hardly a habit?


    June 6, 2010 at 11:32 pm Reply
  3. Rhys, good to see the Welsh are above these petty squabbles (they save their rivalries for the rugby, if my experiences of living in south Wales are anything to go by).
    Mark, you are quite right. It’s amazing how well a country can take one win, and even more so a draw at Wembley in Oct 73, into its folklore. There are even songs about that Wembley match, such was its importance to the Poles, and the list of subsequent defeats has done little to dampen the memory.
    Thanks both for your comments.

    June 7, 2010 at 7:12 am Reply
  4. Without wanting to sound over-competitive, I think we Welsh can do squabbling aw well as any county (we might even manage to qualify for a squabbling Word Cup!). The photos aren’t meant as an example of how Wales is getting behind England, but rather how significant demographic shifts happening in north Wales coastal areas and the ignorance of the marketing departments of large firms become more obvious during world cups.

    June 7, 2010 at 10:01 am Reply
  5. I know an untimely exit is inevitable, but can I just say…..

    Come on England!

    June 8, 2010 at 6:04 pm Reply
  6. oh i just love the way you wrote, as a teenager you actually quietly cheered on the opposition without anyone knowing .. well, ahem! thanks to twitter and your readers.. not anymore! LOL;)

    June 28, 2010 at 12:41 pm Reply
  7. Yes, I am now going to be called a traitor. Oh wait, people are too angry at the team to worry about me ;-)

    June 29, 2010 at 10:55 am Reply
  8. Ralph Jackson #

    Remember the giant Solidarity banner(s) the Polish fans unveiled (and the authorities tried to stop being shown) in the Poland-USSR game at the 1982 World Cup in Spain?

    March 17, 2012 at 10:09 pm Reply
    • I do indeed. Interesting now to think that they tried to censor it out. The power of the Soviet-influenced media folks eh?

      March 18, 2012 at 10:01 am Reply

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