If you hate the England team then clap your hands…


If you really want to bewilder and then annoy an English person, one sure-fire way is to cheer against their football team. Root for the opposition and display glee when the England team are (as they usually are) defeated. English people, when they can unclench their teeth, tell you that this is a totally unreasonable position for the Irish (or Scots and maybe Welsh) to take. If the football boot were on the other foot – if Ireland were playing a third party, say –  they would get immediate and unstinted backing from English people. Why is it then that we can’t have the generosity to do the same? 

That’s an absolutely valid point. They would support us. But with us, it’s ABE  – Anybody But England. If they’re playing the Cote d’Ivoire, we suddenly become huge fans of that African country. If they’re up against Costa Rica – as they soon will be – we’ll go into reflex mode and cheer the Costa Ricans. What is the reason for this mean-spirited begrudgery we make no bones about displaying?

I don’t know, but I’m going to suggest a few possible reasons.

1. History.  The United Kingdom was an English invention, foisted on Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Yes of course it’s possible to show that those three countries voted themselves into the Union, but in the end we know that it was a matter of the biggest power on these islands declaring itself leader of all four countries. If you can put a tack on the domineering teacher’s chair, there’s a sense of unholy glee when he sits down. So far at least, none of the three minor countries has managed to move out of the control of the big one. If we can’t run our own affairs and if our own football teams are generally  crap, at least there’s the satisfaction of seeing the England team, representing England remember,  crash and burn.

2. England’s sporting code. By urging on England’s opponents, we know we’re breaking the English sporting code, where you need to be a good loser, have a stiff upper lip, and be generous in your support of each other. ‘Play up, play up and play the game’ is the sporting motto of England. We get a kick out of saying in so many words “Screw you – we don’t play by your rules”.  Again, a kind of substitute independence. 

3. The English media. Once England is in a competition, the English media can’t help themselves. They start talking or writing and next you know, a bunch of fairly good footballers have become demi-gods.  A team that’s reasonably good in the odd game becomes the team brimming with talent, capable of going all the way, so let’s get behind them, chaps!  It doesn’t take long for Irish people (and, as I say, maybe Scots and even Welsh people) to get sick listening to or reading this sort of sporting hyperbole. You’d be of a remarkably even, balanced frame of mind that you wouldn’t have a quiet – or loud – snigger when the massive English balloon gets pricked by reality. 

What makes it all even more baffling, of course, is the fact that many of us cheer on Englsih Premier League teams – even travel over to Britain so we can cheer them on in person. We’re passionate and unstinting in our  support of Man United or Liverpool or Arsenal. Mind you, all of those clubs are owned by non-English financiers and most of their players are non-English. But that’s an incidental. In footballing terms we love the clubs and hate the country.

As the Fawlty Towers psychiatrist remarked to his psychiatrist wife after a five-minute exchange with Basil: there’s enough there for a whole conference.

12 Responses to If you hate the England team then clap your hands…

  1. jasonoruairc June 21, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    I used to play traditional Irish music in a well-known bar on the Falls Road in Belfast. The session didn’t last very long because the locals wanted to watch English Premier League football on the TV. Quality session it was, too.

    • Peadar MacGhabhain June 27, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

      Me and the misses favourite sexual position is called the “England football team” Neither of us know what we’re doing or why we’re there, there’s no passion, no communication and we never make it past the 1st stage. its over far too quickly and when it does end I know it will be another four fecking years before it happens again!

  2. Francis D June 21, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    I don’t think Jude however the Anti England doing well thing extends to Rugby,- an anomaly perhaps…? Or maybe it is more to do with the ‘Rule Britannia’ vitriol which gushes from their quarter when it comes to Soccer? Sour Grapes or an Antipathy towards the England fans singing about their lost Empire or their English National Anthem that Crows with Proud absurdity about ‘Victoria, long to reign over us…And to their current regent,-‘God save our Queen’. In Rugby, ‘Sweet home, Sweet Chariots, or even ‘Land od hope and Glory’ doesn’t inspire the same disdain or aversion among us Irish given the fraught relationship between our two Countries. I for one, can’t but smile when this nostalgic vitriol for Empire is silenced, to be replaced with stunned enquiries as to when the Airport can accomodate their departure….Not that all England fans acquiesce to such baloney, as for my tear glands, they most certainly remain dry as I suspect many othet countries who have live under this mischievous Empire’s shadow when they hear there ‘Barmy Army’ celebrations of what they harken back to the good old days of…….is that So Wrong, or even Racist. I have English freinds on the left who equally disdain this vitriol. If England were to declare a Republic and audible celebrations of a cruel Empire stymied, I would be far more sporting about their Soccer team…..Are my English Leftist friends Racist also……..?

  3. RJC June 21, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    I would say there is possibly greater anti-English feeling amongst Scottish football fans that there is amongst Irish ones. Did you see this fellow the other day?


  4. wolfe tone June 21, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    I cant stop clapping! ; )

  5. Francis D June 21, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    RIP Gerry Conlon. A Victim of a serious miscarraige of Justice, and an active advocate on behalf of those still incarcerated unjustly, near and far.

    • ben madigan June 21, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

      have just posted an obituary

    • paddykool June 22, 2014 at 8:20 am #

      There but for a stroke of luck go any one of us .I’ve been there!!

  6. paddykool June 21, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    Jude :I think it is all very simple, really.It’s to do with “grace” and “nobility”. {or lack thereof}. It’s the ability or lack of it to shut your mouth when you’ve done well.. Humility in victory or lack thereof…..Not that I give a stuff about much of football…. but we never stopped hearing about Bobby Moore and the lads in the 1960’s… It went on for years and years ….it was like crowing about a long -ago….long lost empire…..Puleeeese!!……..It fairly left a bad taste in the mouth…. it’s why the Irish are generally enjoyed in Europe and the English are treated quite differently….

  7. Sráid an Bhogha June 21, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    Speaking as a Welshman (one of those dreadful racist ones that insists on speaking Welsh to people), it’s the instence that we support their team, and the fact that all of the big chain shops fill with England merchandise, which irks me. In the ordinary way I’d be quite pleased if England won, but I resent being ordered (in a foreign language) to support one particular country because mine hasn’t qualified. We’ve got quite a large Polish population in the local town, but they never insist that I support Poland. Other than continued cultural imperialism, why should the English be any different?

  8. Virginia June 22, 2014 at 7:37 am #

    Globalization is why I can happily love my England jersey and my Mexico jersey. England is fine, and with history meaning naught to me, I could live there. It is simply I prefer to live in NI.

  9. NorthMunsterman June 22, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    This is certainly not unique to Ireland viz. England……..the Finns ALWAYS support the team playing Sweden…….the Kiwi’s the same viz Australia…….would be no fun otherwise 🙂