It’s the Euros!
Sandwiched between the Jubilee and the Olympics, this weekend sees the start of Euro 2012 (formerly known as The European Championships for all you nostalgic ‘you can’t run a snickers’ romantics), in which Team GB, sorry no, it’s England in this one, will be the latest manifestation of nationalist pride for the flag-waving, bunting-hanging, bowing and curtsying, forelock-tugging masses of this fine, proud island race.
This isn’t a circa-1998 UWS article about how un-cool Engerlund and its fans are compared to United’s cultured, clued-up away following, and how club football is where my loyalty begins and ends. In fact, I have to admit to quite liking watching international football tournaments – there’s still something exciting about the best players all competing together at these events, even if the novelty has been eroded by both age and regular television images of what would once have been strangely named, exotic players turning out for Fulham and Bolton, Liverpool and Manchester City.
No one expects OUR BOYS to win of course, but wait, the very fact of no one expecting us to win means we probably will win after all, but hang on, us saying that we will probably win because no one expects it will only end up raising our expectations and therefore we probably won’t win. The collective intellects of Chiles, Southgate, Shearer and Lawrenson are currently working on this philosophical conundrum, so fear not.
The pageantry of the Jubilee long weekend is now over, with fly-pasts, walk-abouts and sail-alongs only bettered by the reach-arounds provided by lickspittles Eamonn Holmes and Gary Barlow. Although poor old Prince Philip is laid up on a trolley in an NHS corridor, all this optimistic nationalist sentiment can continue almost seamlessly into the football tournament, then on to Armed Forces Day, through the Olympics and then no doubt on to whatever other nationalist media event they come up with – I’m sure everyone’ll be up for another good old-fashioned war by that stage (the Malvinas are nice in the Autumn).
In the past, these tournaments would bring pessimistic predictions about England’s unruly travelling support. Things are changing slightly though, with racism having being eradicated from Britain at some point. Only those backwards Eastern European countries have racists now, and they’re ready to batter anyone who isn’t a white skinhead – as proved by Panorama. What’s more, the police will look the other way, such is the corruption and all-round weirdness that will characterise any major sporting event that isn’t hosted by an already highly-developed tourist resort.
Poland and Ukraine are two of those countries that bought big time into the Western promise of a better future, back when the West were promising such things if these countries would just reject the alternative of bread queues and secret police surveillance. The problem was, as soon as the alternative disappeared with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the West said thanks very much to Mikhail, Lech and friends, cheers for opening up the veins of Eastern Europe for us, we don’t need you anymore, so fuck off and leave us with Roman et al. to get on with sucking it dry.
The bleak experience Ukrainians and Poles had under centralist Soviet rule means that for many, any remotely left-wing sentiment is dismissed out of fear of a return to those dark days. The capitalist media of course play on this with glee, and so many of those unemployed, under-educated, disenchanted kids of the 1990s cling to nationalist identity and egged on by that media, as with this country, focus their anger towards other, usually worse-off victims rather than at the corporate criminals in charge. The difference with our no-longer-racist country though of course, is that we have a recent history of immigration from all those places where His and Her Majesties’ forces and traders used to enslave, rape, torture, murder, loot, pillage, plunder, set up death camps and commit genocide. If only the Ukraine had built its empire and industry on doing that, they’d now be just as tolerant as us.
We send our politicians to do the best deals for our country, to cast away the periphery of Europe to further enrich a capitalist class in this country that we have nothing in common with, and then get upset when these countries show the symptoms of a struggling country. The hysterical reactions to that poorly-made Panorama programme, while revealing an encouraging abhorrence to racism, also showed up uncritical liberal faux-outrage at its worst. Sol Campbell, whose proud scruples led him to huge paydays under the equally-principled owners of Portsmouth and Notts County, gave a Brass Eye-style warning with as much knowledge and authority as Bernard Manning on ‘cake’ or Seb Coe on ‘paedogeddon’.
It’s horrible that a significant number of football fans choose right-wing racist ideology to identify themselves and to justify their violence, but not much of a surprise given the way people are encouraged to celebrate identity along nationalist lines. Do we choose to side with the working class of other countries, like Greece, Spain and even America as they look to build a global movement based on internationalism that actively opposes racism, or do we choose nationalist xenophobia – embodied in the submissive flag-waving around the monarchy and the armed forces – that have always proved close bedfellows of racism and fascism.
As for Sol’s regret that the likes of Poland and Ukraine have been awarded such a prestigious tournament, if major sporting events actually do what the organisers claim, and leave a positive social and economic legacy, then surely awarding these events to countries that have been royally fucked-over by the rich west is the perfect way forward.