With Sunder Katwala, Alastair Campbell and John Redwood lacing up their boots it seems that World Cup fever, a particularly virulent sporting malaise, has infected the British political blogosphere. Attempts at sporting insight (not to mention metaphors) have resulted in varying degrees of success. The output of the New Statesman, however, reflects the kind last seen in England’s qualifying campaigns of 1978 and 1994.
A post by Laurie Penny entitled “Why I despise the World Cup” actually manages to raise some fair points, such as how commercialised it has become. I don’t really understand why the Danish lager Carlsberg is supporting England – but I don’t think that’s why Laurie hates the World Cup. Pop music has become too commercialised, and I find that depressing, but that’s not why I hate Miley Cyrus*. I hate Miley Cyrus because her music makes me want to choke on the bile that collects in my mouth when I hear it.
Conceding “not everyone who displays an England flag is a fascist”, Penny then reveals she is a “card-carrying member of the sensitive, wheezy, malcoordinated phalanx of the population for whom the word “football” still evokes painful memories of organised sadism”. As a dyspraxic, Belle and Sebastian-loving, soon-to-be English student spending my gap year writing political blogs, I can empathise with this completely. My discomfort is acute owing to constant comparisons to my brother, who may yet become a professional “misogynist jock tossing a ball around”. Yet I still love football. Penny intellectualises her antipathy for football, as though there’s something wrong with simply disliking a sport.
Staggers’ political correspondent James Macintyre’s argument for a British football team lapses into some crass generalisations and weird inaccuracies. He accuses England fans of “leering” (at what? the football?) and dismisses the fact that England might reach the Quarter Finals – reserved for eight of the world’s best teams – as “dire”. When he says that supporters drink “cheap, English lager” I have two problems: firstly, we drink cheap foreign lager; and secondly, the word “English” is used in a derogatory manner there, which by his own definition (“Englishness is… a racial brand”) is a bit, well, Anglophobic?
As a regular NS reader and critical friend, however, I should assure Penny or Macintyre (the former of whom appreciated she’d “fallen into self-parody”) this is a defence of something I love.