England set to open campaign but back home apathy reigns


With England opening their Euro 2012 campaign against the old enemy France today, you might expect the nation to be a sea of St Georges flags, with commuters heading to work humming the team’s latest pop anthem.

But this afternoon’s match is the culmination of an inauspicious build-up that has seen a lukewarm reception for the new manager Roy Hodgson, controversy over Rio Ferdinand’s snub, injuries to key players and fears that the entire tournament could be marred by racist fans in the host nations, Poland and Ukraine. The tournament also suffers the misfortune of sharing the summer with two once-in-a-lifetime national events: the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. 

As if to symbolise the relative apathy of the nation over Euro 2012 compared with the fervour generated by most major tournaments, England’s official anthem - “Sing 4 England” by Sky Sports pundit Chris Kamara – failed even to make the top 200 in yesterday’s chart.

“There certainly haven’t been as many column inches bigging up England’s chances, because everyone’s attention is on other things,” said Kevin Miles, international director of the Football Supporters Federation, who is one of only about 5,000 England fans in Poland and Ukraine. “I tuned into Radio 5 the other day and instead of talking football they had live coverage of the Tae-Kwon-do, simply because it’s an Olympic sport.”

Back at home, the usual flowering of St George’s flags from the homes and cars of the faithful is yet to materialise in most places. In London their places have mostly been taken by Union Jacks for the Jubilee.

Nina Lambert, 40, owner of The Flag Workshop, a leading UK supplier of flags said that enthusiasm was miserably low for this stage in a major tournament: “Usually we see demand close to games. So far one person has phoned up and asked about flags for the Euros,” she said.

Charlie Barlow, 55, the owner of Barmy Flags reported orders down by a half on the World Cup.

“With everything else happening like the Olympics and the Jubilee, it’s crept up on us,” he said. “People are leaving it until the last minute. I’m sure if we beat France we’ll see a spike in sales.”

One place you will find the red and white bunting are the supermarkets and service stations. But precious few are stocking up on beers, crisps and vuvuzelas.

“I won’t be watching it,” said Tom Kane, 55, a caretaker from north London passing by the football-themed offers in his local Tesco. “I usually watch England at the big tournaments but there’s a lot of gloom around with the recession and people just aren’t getting excited.”

Jason Harris, 27, an electrician from Rochester, was only slightly more enthusiastic. “I’ll go the pub to watch it, but I don’t expect we’ll win. It’s more an excuse to catch up with mates really. We have a crap manager who’s made all the wrong decisions, so I think we’ll only be meeting three times.”

You can hardly blame them. In a year when bookmakers Paddy Power have erected a 100ft tall statue of “Roy the Redeemer” on the coast at Dover, appealing for “divine intervention” for the England team, the days of Three Lions on My Shirt, Jules Rimet and the adoration of David Beckham’s right foot seem long gone.

The travelling England supporters, typically the most resistant to the hype of a major tournament, already appear to have resigned themselves to the quarter-finals. At best. But there is still a shred of hope, if not for England, then for the place of football in the national consciousness.

“Once again you look at the England team and think they could beat anyone on the day or lose to anyone on the day,” said Miles. “The Olympics are a one-one off. You can buy Team GB kits in the shops this year, but when the Games go elsewhere people will lose interest. But fans will always buy the England kit.”

Come five o’clock this afternoon and kick-off against France, for 90 minutes at least football will regain its place in the nation’s heart. Who knows, we might even win.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all