Now that England’s World Cup has ground unceremoniously to a halt, thanks to yesterday’s debacle, it is of paramount importance that we evaluate what has been a roundly positive tournament in raising awareness of English issues, particularly those concerning English nationality.
The topic has been addressed by everyone from Sunny Hundal, whose fascinating analysis of his newfound English identity is well worth a read, to Jeremy Seabrook’s sneering but incisive assessment of football as a microcosm of the modern English nation, to the Telegraph’s confused unease at the supposed ‘constitutional tragedy’ of burgeoning English nationalism, via the Socialist Worker’s ludicrous, paranoid attempt at a rebuke to the truly working class-inspired renaissance for the Cross of St George. A fascinating array of different perspectives on England and Englishness.
Whilst these debates rage on, I return to an earlier assertion: namely, that the priority of the English nationalist must now be to attempt to reclaim the crass commercialisation that Englishness is diluted by during international sporting tournaments. This surely is the only way to reassert the benefit of a more developed and nuanced nationalism, and a national pride that outlives 90 minutes in foreign stadia.
This is not a new thing for me. Ever since I first clapped eyes on it, have been intrigued by this car sticker, produced by Nationwide, dating from the last World Cup.
(The faded fascia is due to the fact that the car sticker has remained in the car for the past four years, in spite of confused onlookers enquiring why the item hadn’t been removed after the aforementioned tournament.)
I was immediately struck by the fact that the triumvirate of ‘Pride. Passion. Belief’ are assets in the English character that should not be reduced to the temporary biannual insanity that football provides. Moreover, they are emotions that spring to heart and mind as soon as I consider my feelings for my home country: pride in, and fervent passion for, our long history, our diverse culture and our many achievements.
Needless to say, not all advertisers have been as conscientious in their association of their product with English culture. Below, Mars’ clumsy Facebook assertion that ‘England needs you’… presumably to extol the patriotism of an American corporation…
The official Facebook of the England team was similarly oblique in its forceful assertion of patriotic bluster.
Who is ‘we’ in this quote? We’re supposed to get behind ‘our country’ for the benefit of… our country? I am perplexed. It is a similar confusion that plagues me when I consider the following assertion from Umbro…
‘One team, one nation’ is the bold proclamation here. The bluster over their controversial God Save the Queen advertisement aside, how precisely do they define England as a nation except as a sporting entity? Anyone? I’m mystified.
What the adverts seem to be hamstrung by is the fact that they are neglecting the true importance of ‘getting behind the country’ and recognising the ‘one nation’ in which we live: our efforts to regain England’s long-subjugated nationhood. We must continue to assert our right to have our own national anthem, our own public holiday, our own political representation.
Without them, there is no England but the shallow reduction to temporary sporting hysteria and the imagined community manipulated in the name of corporate and political gain.