What football says about national culture

England fans cheer on their team outside Wembley Stadium ahead of the EURO 2020 final football match in London on July 11, 2021. Jordan News columnist Nasser bin Nasser writes that English media have
England fans cheer on their team outside Wembley Stadium ahead of the EURO 2020 final football match in London on July 11, 2021. Jordan News columnist Nasser bin Nasser writes that English media have fooled fans into believing victory is inevitable. (Photo: AFP)
There must be a field of academic study out there that looks at how countries behave when it comes to their national teams and the extent to which this is a reflection of their national psyche — perhaps an obscure offshoot of the sports and culture discipline. It always bemuses me, for instance, when American football or baseball teams are crowned “world champions” when they win their national leagues. The fact that non-American teams don’t participate in the league, or that American teams regularly lose to other countries when they do compete against them internationally is beside the point. They are world champions because this mirrors the US’ national sense of global exceptionalism.  اضافة اعلان
There is a lot to unpack when it comes to England’s national psyche and their football over the years. On the whole, there is a general tendency to exaggerate good performances and individual merit wherever they exist, sometimes to the detriment of the team or player in question. Even though the Premier League is the most popular and competitive league in the world, English clubs have performed pretty modestly in Europe since its inception, and even the best English players have failed to make a significant impact in European leagues.

This includes superstar players such as David Beckham, Michael Owen, Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle, and even the beloved Gary Lineker. This isn’t to diminish from their footballing abilities whatsoever, or to suggest that they’ve flopped in Europe, but rather to suggest that they haven’t been able to meet the high and often unrealistic expectations created and obsessively promulgated by English media back home. Look at poor Trent Alexander Arnold of Liverpool. True, he is a phenomenal right-back but English media have painted him as the best right-back in the world — a burden that has probably negatively impacted his performance and growth.

This hype is also clearly on display at Euro 2020, as it has been at previous international tournaments. After only a few victories against some easy opponents and an ailing German national team, English media have gone characteristically overboard, convincing the English public into believing in the inevitability of victory. Perhaps an academic in a field of study referred to earlier is monitoring a spike in the number of times the “Football is Coming Home” song has been played since England’s victory over Germany?

The belief in the inevitability of victory is a very English phenomenon; persevering against insurmountable odds and rallying around a flag — an island nation surrounded by adversaries — fighting overseas behind enemy lines etc. However, it’s baseless, considering the fact that England has never won the tournament.

Danish keeper Kasper Schmeichel rightly and coyly answered a question regarding the “Football is Coming Home” chants during a press conference before the England match: “has it ever been home?” This is partially why defeat normally comes as such a surprise to English fans. The pioneers of the game are no longer considered a serious contender in most international tournaments, and this is a difficult pill to swallow.

It mirrors the difficulty the country faces as it struggles to reconcile its place in the new world order — a superpower that, well, isn’t as super as it once was. Defeat for the lads overseas often paves the way for another narrative altogether: an admirable sense of solidarity and finding solace and pride in the smallest of places, (think Dunkirk).

The English media machine can strongly shape these narratives, and in the case of football, its dominance and near monopoly in the English-speaking football world prevent other narratives from emerging. Good luck to England and their fans in the finals on Sunday night but don’t be surprised by a defeat. Good luck to the rest of the world if they win. We’ll never hear the end of it!

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