Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hierarchy of allegiances

The great thing about the World Cup is that you can support more than one team. To be sure, there's one you pull for more than the rest, but you can form a hierarchy of allegiances. This keeps your interest focused after your real team gets knocked out.

ENG-ER-LAND

I support England above all. Most English people are pleasantly, but deeply, surprised by this. There's an automatic assumption that if you're an immigrant in your hierarchy of allegiance you'll support first your home country team and then maybe England as well. (Unless of course you're Scottish, but I'll come on to that later). Many want to know the source and path to my fandom. It's like this:

I first arrived in this country in the middle of the European tournament Euro 96. It was hosted in England and it was hard not to get caught up a little. England did well, but got knocked out by Germany in a penalty shoot-out in the semi-finals. I happened to be in Scotland for that, and wanted to watch that game in a bar. But when my then boyfriend (now the Vol-in-Law) and I hit the streets of Edinburgh in search of a suitable venue all the bar crowds were pulling for Germany, quite demonstrably. They have a "I support Scotland and whoever's playing England attitude" that I find unsportsmanlike*. So we ended up watching it at his parents' as I favored England.

I think that sealed it for me right then, and my passion has only grown. It's not as if I've jumped on a winning bandwagon either. Oh no, England will always break your heart in the end.

I like all the hoopla that goes with supporting England, the bunting, the flags, the t-shirts, the chanting and even the pop record releases. England goes nuts...though it's not a tenth of Knoxville level support for the Vols even post-season, even post a losing season.

Plus, for a long time supporting England has been seen as oikish (Britspeak for trashy) and flying the St George's cross as pandering to unpleasant nationalism at best and vaguely racist at worst. There's nothing I like more than wallowing in the slightly un-PC gutter and getting up the noses of whinging killjoys.

USA

Of course I want the US soccer team to do well. But like many expats over here, I'm sort of "Why should I waste my passion on this team when y'all back home hardly care?". It's a bit sad really. And I think it's a sign of increasing US isolationism when not only do Americans not care about the World Cup - which everyone else in the world gets in a frenzy over, but increasingly y'all seem to care less about the Olympics, too. (I always cheer on US athletes).

The Americas

After the US, I'll root for any American team. It's part of my pan-American hemispheric solidarity. Mexico first, then just about any of those little countries, then Argentina, then Brazil, then Columbia, then Canada.

Europe

This is where it all gets a bit murky. I'd support Finland out of ancestral solidarity, if they were any good. I'm generally going to pull for a European team over an Asian or Middle Eastern team but there are plenty I don't like (e.g. Germany, France). I am quite liking the Australian soccer-roos in this World Cup, if for the nickname alone, and I'll pull for them when they meet Brazil. Thus violating my earlier general rule.

Preferences between European teams will generally depend on whether I've had a fun, good value vacation in that country. So I'm particularly looking forward to seeing England smash Sweden.

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*Although I dislike the Scottish attitude of "any team but England". I do fondly remember the bumper stickers that said "I'm for the Tennessee Volunteers...and whoever's playing Alabama"
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4 comments:

Vol-in-Law said...

Personally I support Northern Ireland. We beat England in the qualifiers after England had beaten Brazil, and the commentator said:

"They (England) thought they could beat us like they beat Brazil. But we're not Brazil. We're Northern Ireland."

Indeed.

After NI I support England. I used to support Scotland, where I was born, but I agree with the Vol - their whingeing attitude gets me down, too.

Sam said...

I'm a US supporter first, an England supporter second (because I love England more than almost anyplace I've ever been and because of Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Theo Walcott), a France supporter third (because of Henry, Vieira, Zidane, and Robert Pires, who should've been on the team), then Germany (Lehmann). Is it wrong to bring club loyalty to the WC table?

Sam said...

I realize Zizou never played for Arsenal, but I admire what he did in '98 and his play with RM.

carl said...

Allegiances are funny. I have a hard time reading your blog because of the color.

Go Gators!