Richard Madeley asks Scotland fan ‘why won’t you cheer us?’
The England football team is preparing to play against Denmark this Wednesday in the semi-finals of Euro 2020. Little has been spared in the way of anticipation, with supporters up and down the country confident that their country could be on the cusp of their first ever European Championship final – and potential victory. The conversation surrounding England has, however, strayed from the game and team.
Many, like Good Morning Britain host Richard Madeley, have hit out against Scots, the Welsh and Northern Irish for not committing their support for England in their bid.
Columnists and pundits have long debated why large numbers of people from the devolved nations refuse to back the English national side in whatever sport they may be playing in.
Dafydd Mac, writing in Nation Cymru ahead of England’s most recent men’s football semi-final – the 2018 World Cup – argued it had to do with unfair coverage, politics, identity and representation.
Citing Stephen Daisley writing in the Spectator who said England would “be a mate about” any other devolved nation reaching the finals of a sporting tournament, Mr Mac said: “Unfortunately, we know this is nonsense.”
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He would go on to compare newspaper headlines when Wales reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016 with England’s performance in 2018.
Mr Mac wrote: “So we know that England’s support for Wales was at best lukewarm, but why are so few people in Wales ready to support England?
“The short answer is that English identity is often synonymous with British identity, and when we Welsh are asked to embrace Britishness what we are actually being asked to do is to embrace Englishness at the expense of Welshness.
“Demanding that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland support England is a classic example of this dynamic in action.
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“England and Britain are considered interchangeable, and therefore England are presented as the de facto Team GB at the World Cup.
“Therefore it is considered only natural, in the eyes of many, that we in Wales, as British people, support England, and we are considered petty if we don’t do so.”
He argued that the dislike for the English national team in Wales stemmed from Englishness falling “under the cloak of Britishness,” and that “despite its cultural richness, Welsh culture is being slowly eroded by the soft power of its much larger neighbour.”
Going through the complex relationship of Wales and England, and claiming that England is Wales’ “antagonistic other”, Mr Mac wrote: “The national football team is intrinsically linked to national identity. To support your national team is to show the world that you are proud of your country.
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“Therefore, if you identify with a national identity which defines itself against an ‘antagonistic other’, to support the latter’s football team is tantamount to the betrayal of the former.
Yet, many others have claimed that this time round Wales should, in fact, support their neighbours.
English writer Laura Kemp who has lived in Wales for over 20 years urged in a WalesOnline piece that “all Welsh people should now be supporting England in Euro 2020”.
Drawing on many of the grievances commonly felt by Welsh people – of which some were explored in Mr Mac’s piece – she wrote: “How can you possibly back the enemy in Euro 2020 after everything they’ve done to you?
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“After all, Wales has endured centuries of oppression at the hands of England, and Boris Johnson’s Government treats the nation as an after-thought.
“The Prime Minister made that crystal when he wished good luck to England, Scotland and, ‘Any other home nations that may be competing’ when the sum of ‘them’ was Wales.”
But she said England’s squad today embodies everything that Welsh people should be embracing: “They aren’t just professional and playing with pride and passion – remind you of any other team close to your hearts?
“They’re also the role models they’re often accused of failing to be.
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“In fact, they go much further – they are challenging the establishment just like those in Wales who are sick of the privilege of the Etonian elite.
“Even when Conservative critics have accused them of ‘tokenism’, the team has stuck to its guns to take the knee to protest against not just racism but beat the drum for equality for all, whether that’s gender, disability or sexuality.”
While Mr Mac ends on the note, “Let us grumble if England win and enjoy our nationalistic schadenfreude if they lose!”, Ms Kemp takes the alternative view: “Before you dig deep for the Danes remember this team isn’t about nasty nationalism – it’s about a collective and a conscience. And surely that’s something we should all get behind.”
Author: Joel Day
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