World Cup 2010

England’s Enemy Within

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Where are your loyalties in soccer? With your club or country?
If you could choose between your favourite top club winning it’s club championship (Premiership, Champions League) or your country winning the World Cup, which would you choose?

I have attended a few of the last World Cups (six) and have always been highly impressed with the energy and commitment of the English fans, possibly the greatest in the world. I often have travelled with them and admire the way they can fill any standium and make it their own. Even more than the Brazilians, Argentinians or Dutch. Yet the English team’s performance appears below par.

Yet I was amazed when I surveyed a sizeable number of English fans over recent World Cups having asked them the question I just asked you.

With their recent success or lack of at World Cups you would think their first choice would passionately be for their country. Not so. Club preferance ranked first with all trophies including Champions League, Premiership and FA Cup, although fans began to waiver when it became a choice of their team winning the insignificant League Cup (now affectionately known as the Carling Cup) versus England winning the World Cup! Fancy that. Their answers were unflinching until we discussed minor events.

How could this be? Speaking with international friends I have, I have yet to find another soccer fan from another country who would choose their club before their country. Perhaps regional loyalty in England is so inbred it has become a means of survival or identity. English fans tend to inherit their club from family generation to generation, rarely wavering, while many foreign fans simply don’t carry a similar bloodline commitment. May be this makes other nations fans less connected to their clubs and more to their country.

Here lies England’s challenge. Not just with their fans, but I suggest with their players. Their loyalties are strong but ultimately in conflict. The clubs pay, house and feed them, emotionally and physically, and in the end, thats what counts. More than any other country.

The book “Soccernomics” written by Simon Kuper & Stefan Szymanski goes a long way in explaining “Why Do England Lose” in more rational terms, and why the gap between their fans’ expectations and reality is widening. England are not unlucky. They are simply not good enough, and unfortunately their fans deserve better. But won’t get it.

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