It’s coming home
“It’s coming home, it’s coming, football’s coming home”.
It’s a catchy tune and one that is easy to remember. It’s been around for over 20 years so it’s well known by young and old alike. Even people who don’t tend to follow football can give it a little go as they shuffle around the office.
What’s not to love?
Since England lost to Croatia in their World Cup semi-final there has been a lot of confusion amongst many England fans*. They witnessed an England team do something remarkable and surpass all expectations, getting to within touching distance of the World Cup final itself. After decades of humiliation on the national stage, ‘it’s coming home’ was more than just light relief and they don’t understand why people from other countries were so happy to see England crash.
I had a ding-ding at 3:30am outside our Moscow hotel with Slaven Bilic and Diego Forlan about the "football’s coming home” song. Both adamant, despite its origin/intended meaning, that the English come across as arrogant and it winds up the opposition…
— Jacqui Oatley (@JacquiOatley) July 16, 2018
Why are England being called ‘arrogant’ when it was clearly just a joke?
For many fans, ‘it’s coming home’ was sung with ironic gusto. Friends who are English tell me it was always a joke, a nod to how shit England are really. While it might have started out like that, to the rest of the world, it came across as something very different. You just have to look at the reactions online and in media in other countries to find a healthy dose of schadenfreude.
England fans* feel that the banter was all very much tongue-in-cheek and the rest of the world should be able to see that. ‘It’s not our fault if they can’t’ has been a common refrain on Social Media. ‘It’s just a song,’ another.
They weren’t alone. English journalists were all over Twitter complaining about people thinking they were arrogant, too. Rather than appreciate that is how England came across, English fans* and media have resorted to getting defensive and reinforcing everything the rest of the world is saying causes them to form this opinion in the first place.
Read interviews/spoke with Croat players. They saw #ComingHome signing as disrespectful mostly because it CONFIRMED what they thought of the English. U might say it was all a joke (it felt less of one after #COL), I’m telling you how it was perceived. Maybe something to consider
— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) July 14, 2018
Something England fans* think is a bit of harmless pride can come across as a little sinister to the rest of us. Or some of us. A lot of us. This all seems incredibly unfair to English fans. To a point, it is.
England are judged by different standards than other countries.
Great explanation. I think we are getting there https://t.co/sqJWcTTb8N
— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) July 14, 2018
Is that fair? Not in the slightest, but that’s the bed the country made for themselves through hundreds of years of colonisation, war crimes, genocide, concentration camps, army and police brutality, hooliganism, political interference, not to mention the clusterf**k that is Brexit.
None of that justifies hatred towards English people, an anger, it should be said, that is – or should be – aimed at the ‘state’ not the people. To many around the world, especially those still experiencing a post-colonial legacy, the England football team is a symbol of that state. Unsurprisingly, some people aren’t that fond of England when it makes an appearance on the world stage. When England then starts going on about taking something back to its rightful place…well, you can see how that might cause a problem or two.
It’s patronising to suggest that people around the world are too stupid to realise that ‘Football Coming Home’ was tongue-in-cheek. It’s possible to realise that and still find the attitude around England at the World Cup arrogant. And let’s not pretend there isn’t some serious revisionism going on at the minute. While FCH started as a joke, many started to take it very seriously before resorting to ‘it was a joke!’ again when England lost to Croatia.
It’s also incredibly insulting to tell people to ‘get over their colonial past’ simply because they said a mean thing about your country. Really, sit with that for a minute. Please.
If England fans* want someone to blame for all this, they need look no further than their own backyard.
Imagine the French sang a song, “we invented the World Cup, we will bring it home”. Banter. For many in England it wouldn’t feel like that and would ‘confirm’ what you think of the French.
Singing is great. Sense of humour doesn’t always translate well. That’s all I’m saying
— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) July 14, 2018
The media certainly haven’t helped and are largely responsible for the size of the England backlash that took place.
They are not best pleased, either, that Croatia’s management and stars called them out for their arrogance in the lead up to the game. More than one journalist has devoted time to ‘proving’ they weren’t any more arrogant than the Croatian media which didn’t spend any time whatsoever getting celebrities to sing ‘it’s coming home’ before the game kicked-off in Moscow.
Then you have the likes of Martin Samuel writing in the Daily Mail how England are like ‘Barcelona lite’ (they managed six shots on target from open play in the whole competition prior to their 3rd/4th place play-off game) and how they are the best team at the tournament, despite failing to win more games than they lost.
Oliver Brown in the Telegraph spent his article telling us why Luka Modric is ‘living in the past’ and that ‘the attitudes commonly associated with England have changed’.
For England fans, maybe. Not for the rest of the world.
Brown asked at the start of his piece, “So, is Modric right? Are the English blind to grating assertions of their own imagined superiority?” Yes, he said. But only if you listen to Roy Keane apparently. Brown then asks why anyone should care what Keane thinks before devoting the rest of his article to Englsplaining why Modric is wrong to feel how he felt.
Let’s get serious
I know many people don’t like to mix politics and football but that’s impossible, no matter how much you protest. Besides, if you’ve been following this site for any length of time you know that’s exactly the sort of stuff we like to do.
On social media I’ve seen English people accuse Ireland of having a population whose hatred of England is core to their national identity, reinforcing the international view that the English are both arrogant and completely blind to their reputation around the world as a colonising power that has abused, enslaved and murdered people in their own countries to further England’s selfish goals of world domination.
As someone who hails from the Emerald Isle, I took this assertion, that hating England is an essential part of Ireland’s identity, a little personally. I also took the declaration that people in Ireland should ‘just get over it’ like a red rag to a bull. I could also say that contempt for Ireland is core to England’s national identity but I won’t because I’m about to say enough as it is.
Over the course of history, perhaps no two countries have felt the sadism of England more than Ireland and India. I live in a part of the former that is still battling with the effects of England’s Empire building today. Today.
If Ireland had done to England what England has done to them over the past 800 years, they’d have nuked us long ago. But let’s run through a little history lesson for those who can’t understand why the Irish might not be the biggest fans of England. It’s not quite the same as being a Spurs fan who hates Arsenal, as you’ll see.
800 years is a long time and covers a lot of ground. I’m clearly not going to run through it all, so let’s just go with some highlights. Match of the Millennium, if you will.
Ireland has been home to people for at least 10,000 years and they were trundling along quite nicely until the 12th century when the Normans decided they fancied extending their garden, starting more than 800 years of direct rule over a country England just decided to take.
Vicious and bloody attempts were repeatedly made to break the Irish and force them to submit to the will of their English overlords. Rebellions were crushed swiftly and without mercy or even the pretence of justice. Revolutionary leaders, people simply trying to free Ireland from foreign invaders, were put up against walls and shot without trial.
Oliver Cromwell, loved by many English, is viewed in Ireland in the same group of charmers as Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot. Those he didn’t massacre (he killed at least half the population), he shipped to the Caribbean as slaves for the ‘crime’ of being Catholic and ‘undesirable’. 12,000 in all were ripped from their families, forcibly loaded on to boats and never seen again. Many died horrible deaths, alone and thousands of miles from home.
More still were shipped to the colonies in America in the 18th century and Australia in the 19th century described as ‘savages’ and dehumanised in much the same way Donald Trump and Brexit are attacking immigrants today.
Then there was the ‘famine’ which many English think, if they think about it all, happened because some potatoes rotted. The truth is there was more than enough food on this island to feed all the people but the English forced the Irish to send other food stuffs to England instead. Not because the English needed it, but to ensure their food reserves didn’t drop, ‘just in case’.
It wasn’t a famine. It was genocide.
1 million people in Ireland starved to death less than 200 years ago because the English wanted to make sure they had more than they needed. A further 3 million left Ireland to survive, halving the population of the country, something Ireland has still not recovered from to this day.
If you think that this is all from the distant past and shouldn’t matter today (I mean, why would 800-years of systematic oppression leave a lasting legacy?), you only have to lift up any one of today’s papers from Northern Ireland to see how the choices England makes without regard for others is having very real and devastating effects as you read this.
Bombs, riots, beatings, intimidation. These are all happening across Northern Ireland with increasing regularity as tensions continue to rise in this post-Brexit world. Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU because the people here know how integral that institution has been to maintaining peace in the country. But England wants out, so we’re being trailed kicking and screaming with them, even though people here will die because of this decision.
No matter what side of the fence you live on in the north of Ireland, after hard-won peace that has been maintained for 20 years against so many odds, there is real concern that armed conflict is sitting on our doorstep once again, cleaning out the barrels of its gun as it waits for the right moment to strike. This isn’t some ancient dispute that was settled, no matter how unsatisfactorily, hundreds of years ago.
This is happening now as you read this.
People here feel powerless to do anything to stop this runaway car smashing into the 30ft wall we see looming ahead. Our own politicians haven’t worked in over 18 months and England is so obsessed with its own problems it has no time or care for us across the water, not that they ever really did.
This is the English arrogance we live with on a daily basis.
I understand why this can all be a hard subject for many English people.
When you haven’t grown up under the thumb of another country’s oppression, it’s hard to put yourself in the football boots of someone who has. How can a Little Englander ever understand what it’s like to have the British army force you to submit at the barrel of a gun when all you were trying to do was visit a relative?
The Second World War finished over 70 years ago, yet England fans* still gleefully sing about their victory over Germany. England’s war against Ireland is still going on.
As I briefly touched on above, none of this is fair on England fans*.
Like a lot of straight, white cis men, you are paying for the sins of others like you. #NotAllEnglishFans if you will. It sucks to be part of a something that is widely despised, rightly or wrongly. Imagine this, then, as a man telling a woman she’s wrong about her perception of men because the ones around her were only bantering this time.
With some fans displaying a Little Englander mindset, a bloody history, current wars and conflicts that still rage, if you are an England fan, you have to suck up being judged to a different standard than others. You cannot outrun your history, and this is England’s. This is international football and it comes with the bloody baggage of time.
May I suggest a decent starting point for changing this perception.
Instead of telling others from countries yours has raped that they don’t know what they are talking about, perhaps, just once, stop and listen to what you are being told by people who have lived with the impact of England’s policy abroad for their entire lives.
People across the whole world, not just the Irish, are saying England came across as arrogant and England responded by saying the whole world is wrong and just needs to accept that fact. Regardless of how England fans* saw the World Cup or England as a country experienced it, many in the rest of the world perceived it as something very different
If it is to stop, England needs to ask itself why the world was so quick to jump to this judgement and how they can stop that from happening in the future.
Perhaps take a moment to consider that if the whole world is telling you that you have a problem you might actually have one, even if you can’t see it.
It is not on the world to change their opinion of England. England must change the opinion of the world. First, however, they must change their own opinion of themselves and realise that while they might feel like the heroic saviours of Europe after World War II, the Great righter of wrongs, to large parts of the world, England have long been the oppressive force to be freed from.