Francis Elliott: Why he's shouting, please, non!

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The Independent Online

My intention is to enjoy Euro 2004 to the full, as the beer in our fridge will testify. I have not adorned the car with the standard of St George, but I fully support anyone who does. I don't belong to that sour band of self-hating liberals who cheer England's opponents in the belief they are striking a blow against nationalism. But there is a part of the ritual that I will not endorse.

My intention is to enjoy Euro 2004 to the full, as the beer in our fridge will testify. I have not adorned the car with the standard of St George, but I fully support anyone who does. I don't belong to that sour band of self-hating liberals who cheer England's opponents in the belief they are striking a blow against nationalism. But there is a part of the ritual that I will not endorse.

The football shirt. When it comes to my little boy running around in an England top, my stress indicators shoot off the scale. Quite why I reacted with such horror as my wife unpacked one she had just bought from Woolworths for our two-year-old is still a mystery to my other half. "But it's the nicest one they had," she said, once I had made clear my objections.

Snobbery doesn't come into it, although my first objection is aesthetic. Is there anyone, other than a professional player, who looks good in a football shirt? The latest fashion for tailored, body-clinging shirts is particularly regrettable when we're facing an obesity epidemic. Then there is the indignity of being a human billboard, and of course the appalling material, so synthetic it combines maximum dermatological discomfort with minimum functionality.

(Note to the middle-class football arrivistes wearing those bearing the names of French philosophers: who do you think is going to be first for the kicking in the carpark after the game?)

Football shirts are naff. It's as simple as that. And to inflict them on children is unconscionable. But it is not just their naffness I object to. When my first son was born I suffered a similar bout of apoplexy at an in-law's kind gift of Newcastle United-branded baby bib and cup. I suspected a plot to "imprint", like a bird, my new son as a Magpie when, naturally, he was always going be a Tottenham supporter.

In fact, approaching his third birthday, he shows no leaning whatsoever towards St James Park or White Hart Lane or any football ground.

It seems wrong to dress him, in the manner of a circus chimp at tea-time, in the trappings of a sport that does not interest him but amuses adults.

My wife is unimpressed, but a compromise, of sorts, has emerged. He can wear the wretched top if England make the quarter finals. By which time I should have got him chanting "Ingerland" with the best of them.

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