Racially motivated

I play football every week for a team that could turn out for the United Nations. The squad's ethnic composition includes a Moroccan, a mixed-race Chinese, an Indian, a Scot, some West Indians and many more West Africans.

All are British but, when the World Cup crops up, the talk is rarely about the travails of the English squad. The bons mots are reserved instead for the likes of Brazil's Romario and Ronaldo, the arguments about how well Jamaica may do and the speculation on when an Asian side will win the tournament.

It is not that home sides are not supported - Newcastle, Manchester United and Tottenham will all find fervent followers in the team. But footballing passions are too big to be contained by nationality. It is not just fans, but players who make these decisions. For nations starved of talent-in- boots, immigration restrictions and residency rights can be bent, if not broken, to fill squads.

Tunisia's 25-year-old star midfielder, Jose Clayton, is in fact a Brazilian who became an African in an indecently short time. David Regis, a Martinique- born Frenchman, took American nationality last month. The 29-year-old defender, who plays for the German club Karlsruhe and speaks little English, was finally sworn in as a US citizen after correctly answering all 10 questions at an oral test in Los Angeles.

Even the world's footballing powers can be thankful that patriotism is not defined by birthplace. Michael Owen, England's gifted forward, could easily have pulled on a Welsh shirt. When he was 13, Liverpool's teenage star was leading Clwyd schoolboys to victory in the Welsh Schools Cup final. Born in Wales to English parents, Owen represented Welsh school sides from the age of 10 and was eligible to play for the land of his birth. Fortunately for England, he opted for the land of his father.

Such behaviour paradoxically fall foul of Lord Tebbit's "cricket test". Then again, those who ask "which team do you support - the country you were born in or the place where your parents came from?" often shoot from the right wing and end up scoring own goals.

The increasingly global nature of football makes it easier for stars to slip across national boundaries and shatter deeply-ingrained stereotypes. For example, the Premiership's first black manager was not English, but the dreadlocked Dutchman, Ruud Gullit.

So why shouldn't fans be able to shift their allegiances? With up to eight black British footballers likely to make the Jamaican squad, many Afro-Caribbeans born and bought up in England will be supporting the Reggae Boyz. Most of the 40,000 Nigerians born outside the UK but living in its capital will be following not the home side but the West African nation.

I grew up in the early Eighties, and like most of my non-white peers who were fascinated by the beautiful game, longed not to watch England's Trevor Francis or Steve Coppell, but the skills of Brazil's Zico.

The last international I went to was in February, when England took on Chile. But you would not have found me among the 60,000 England supporters that night; I was in the middle of the crowd that punched the air and shouted "Che, Che Che, Le, Le Le - Viva Chile!" until my throat was sore. I lost my voice. England lost the game.

England do often get my vote. When Ince and co played a crucial World Cup qualifier in Rome against Italy last year, I cheered every touch an English player made and celebrated until the small hours in a north London pub after Hoddle's men clinched the draw that was enough to take them to France.

Blind loyalty to one side based on national pride is an option available to everyone this summer, but it is not enough to clinch my support for England.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Qualified NVQ Assessors

    £19000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

    Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - £80k - Javascript / MEAN

    £45000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Ambitious, entrepreneurial busi...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitter - Plant / Tool

    £20000 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Fitter is required to join a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sage 200 Consultant

    £30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They have a unique reputation f...

    Day In a Page

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food