Sports Letters: Nationalism of the worst kind

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The Independent Online
Sir: Football and nationalism - not exactly a novel topic. 'England', ie some officials from the English Football Association, cancel a match against 'Germany', ie 11 German football players; 'Germany', ie some officials from the German football association , cancel a match against 'Wales', ie 11 Welsh players, because these matches were stupidly arranged for the Fuhrer's birthday (a well- known date) and Rudolf Hess's birthday (it must have taken some digging to unearth this fact).

Of course, one could now go on digging. As the year has 365 days but there were/are many more than 365 old Nazis the neo-Nazis could turn into their heroes, there should never be a national or international football fixture.

But this is only the ridiculous aspect of the argument. The present outcry about nationalism - German nationalism, of course - and its relation to football is really a bit of a joke gone wrong.

The people who are now outraged - whether in Britain, Germany or any other country - are the very ones who have in the past done their utmost to equate football and nationalism. If 11 English football players win or lose a match, England has won or lost, a cause for national celebration or mourning.

National football associations and, especially, sports journalists should really take the blame for this association of violent nationalistic feelings with football.

Maybe it is time to reduce football to what it really is - a match between 22 skilful individuals which might be interesting and even exciting to watch and return to some form of objective reporting - the English team won, the German team lost.

After all, we are not trying to carry on fighting World War II on the football pitch - or are we?

Yours sincerely,

SABINE STEEL

Winchester

17 April

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