Why I Support England At The World Cup... Always!

Honestly, I'm a stranger to Kolkata's football culture. Right in front of my house, the giant flag of a certain country that eats, breathes, sleeps and lives football, even though a cricket ball seems to be in it's center, flutters in the breeze. And down the street, the Argentinian flag is flying higher than the Indian flag on top of the local police station. Someone somewhere has put up a statue of Messi looking down upon the adjacent statue of Dr. BC Roy as well.

And after last night's match, certain idol-makers from the famous alleys of Kumartuli, have started carving their idols for Durga Puja. Goddess Durga, looking much like a feminized Robin van Persie is slaying the demon king who resembles the Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas, quite eerily.

Welcome to the football World Cup season in Kolkata. The people here, don't get to follow the Euro Cup as it doesn't incorporate the playmaking styles of the abovementioned two latin American teams. So essentially they keep waiting for the FIFA World Cup every four years. And much like a desperate person's perverted schemes of escapism, every four years later, the people paint the city with colours of their favorite teams.

While few of us old fans of England reconnect to extend our incessant support for the team, albeit the lot of us being pessimistic, I discover how MS Paint can also kill time effectively

I also tried to lure the award-winning Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie in to supporting England on Twitter, while discovering the versatility of MS Paint again and again

It was just a couple of months ago earlier this year, that one of the first World Cup related conversations took place among my friends who follow football. Who were the guys going to support this year. Was it Brazil? Spain? Italy? Portugal? Argentina? Germany? Going by what the guys chose, the idea was perhaps to pick up a team that can get out of their group but has absolutely no chance of winning the tournament.

Apart from the people who backed Brazil and Argentina by default, the rest of them were routing for Italy, Spain and Germany. Unfortunately the most glaringly obvious example of the team that got left out was the one I was cheering for.


In a desperate attempt to gather some more supporters to mourn along cheer along with, I've taken up public speaking and coercions. Lots of people in Kolkata, supporting Brazil or Argentina do not know why they do so. I start with the young people close to me.

'Messi is God' justified my teenage cousin brother. This would be his first serious football World Cup and he already has a God. There's no convincing him otherwise. When I told him that I supported England, he hid his snigger out of respect. 'Rooney can't run with so much weight on him' he said, quite matter of factly.

Meanwhile, 'Ronaldo is the best' declared my sister.
'But you don't even support Portugal?!' I argued, quite aware that she supported Brazil in reality.
'Duh! Why should I support Portugal?'
'Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Portugal' I told her.
'Who the hell is Cristiano Ronaldo?' she asked.
<facepalm> 'Which Ronaldo are you talking about?' asked I, knowing the impending answer well.
'That crazy hairstyle guy who plays for Brazil! Duh!' she made a face.
'My dear, he retired in obscurity.. like ages ago!' I told her.
'What?! Arrey noooooooo.. that can't be..' said she. And went into a deep thought.

The 1-4 drubbing by Germany in 2010

Beckham misses the penalty in Euro 2004

Rooney sent-off in 2006

As the tournament approaches, despite all evidence to the contrary, it's the 'best-player-in-the-world' this and 'best-team-in-the-world' that, that begins as a precursor. However, the hooligans of the Barmy Army have gone quieter over the ages. Maybe it was the painful 1-4 rout by Germany in 2010 or the pain of not qualifying in the previous edition of the Euro Cup in 2008.

Although personally for me, it has to be the moment we fell to that brilliant Ronaldinho goal to lose the quarter finals of the 2002 World Cup 1-2, despite being ahead by a blitz goal within the first 5 minutes. Thanks to my favourite Michael Owens. Bad luck has seemingly followed ever since. Beckham missed a penalty against Portugal in Euro 2004. A red card to Rooney and an injured Beckham in the 2006 World Cup. And I'd rather not discuss the next few years.

To the English supporters like me, India's not winning the cricket World Cup prior to the 2011 despite having Sachin in the team was akin to England's not winning the World Cup while having David Beckham's graceful presence in the team sheet.

England's football is perhaps at it's lowest point. And so is that of Manchester United's, except that I think random glimpses of yesterday's camaraderie between Robin van Persie and Louis van Gaal promises good days ahead for the club all over again.

To understand why English football is a failure, we must invest in to the thought - why the people of Kolkata and of half the world over are such big fans of the Latin American football. A national team ideally should always reflect their culture and the characteristics of it's people. Almost all the latin American teams have a penchant for excellent dribbling skills and expressive football. And the city of Kolkata being inherently appreciative of such artistry, embrace their football with open arms.

I love England as a country. There's an inherent sense of pride and appreciation for music and literature to film and theatre. They gave us The Who and The Beatles and Hugh Laurie. I love their football too, when at it's best. Aren't the wing-play and those airballs a sight?! It's high time that an average Englishman's capacity to get behind their respective football teams - some of them being unbelievable shit - to be rewarded. The English team must put on a show for it's fans who show up in every weather, week after week after week.

Venn Diagram has been borrowed from Thom Gibbs of The Telegraph. The Sarcasm, too.

The English team, for long has been inhibited. The grey men at FA have subdued all forms of expressive football and it's perpetrators, and has created such a 'closeted' team that I think they seem to dream only of qualifying to the next round, but never of winning the championship. Over the years, the young players like Owen in 1998, Rooney in 2004 have showed some flair, only for their speed and attitude to be moderated by some of the 'elders' in the team.

To this day, the English players self-censor any expressive thought that occurs to them in the field. Nobody wants to make a mistake. Nobody wants to take chances. The huge weight of responsibility of being in the team that represents an irrational nation has never inspired the team. Instead it has only led to this slow decline.

I believe it's up to Roy Hodgson now, to inspire his team. And to tell them that 'You lot don't matter as fuck. So go ahead and play some real football and go win the goddamn cup, you poppysocks!'

Maybe that team-talk will turn them up. Hoping against hope.
Go England, Go! Go Hooligan in Brazil! You have me.. always!

1 comment:

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