After Brexit, the sight of a St George’s flag started to make me slightly depressed. I’ve always preferred the Union Jack anyway, and after the vote the red cross somehow seemed to represent an English two fingers to anybody different, rather than a simple celebration of a nation. I’ve always been ambivalent about flags in any case, having spent years in Turkey where the national flag is worshipped to a nauseating degree – to the extent that a famous singer was nearly sued for kicking balloons with the Turkish flag on them. At least, I used to think, Brits have the sense of humour to make boxer shorts out of theirs.
Anyway, I worried that this St George’s flag thing has made the World Cup a bit difficult. How can I fully support the England team when the flag waving jingoism that accompanies each of their games reminds me of Brexit?
Well, quite easily, it turned out. Although I used to report on football (for The Times, World Soccer and occasionally TalkSport Radio and ESPN) I find following a team of any kind to be too time-consuming now I no longer cover the sport. So I didn’t really watch the first games. But slowly, I got the feeling that here was something different.
The team was proving capable and professional, the players seemed young enough to be untainted by my anger towards the general political situation, and Gareth Southgate’s snappy dressing helped make the England team a cut above, somehow. As my Turkish husband started cheering on the team against Colombia, slowly I became hooked.
They haven’t yet set the world alight (I do, however, remember all those dreadful penalty shoot-outs so was mightily impressed this time) but their calm, confident play is more impressive and surprising to me than any fireworks – past teams have had excitement, but that didn’t translate into results in the same way.
And it was this calm professionalism that pulled me in, and it made me forget my Brexit related phobia just a little, as well as making me realise how ridiculous that phobia was. The England team is admirable team, and they deserve everyone’s support. Plus, with their international club-hopping and multinational teams, what could be more “Citizens of the World” than football. I will certainly be watching on Saturday and willing them on – though I draw the line at hanging a flag from my window.