Terence Blacker: Heaven help us if England wins the World Cup

What starts with an excessive fondness for the St George flag can easily tip into criminality

Share
Related Topics

Next week the fun will start. Across the Channel, our boys will be competing for one of sport's greatest prizes. Commentators will scream at us from TV sets and, for a while, something approaching national unity will seem to break out, involving even those who, in more normal times, are utterly indifferent to football. The fans in Germany and those packing pubs, clubs and squares at home will be caught up in the great, hysterically hyped drama of the World Cup. Meanwhile, in sitting-rooms across the land, a surprising number of daddies and boyfriends, brothers and sons, will make their own contribution to the occasion by knocking the wife or girlfriend about or bashing the kids.

To those lucky enough not to have to deal with such things, the connection between a sporting event and domestic violence may not immediately be obvious but, for the police, it is a fact of life. Men drink, get excited, then disappointed: someone, usually the person closest to hand, has to suffer. In a brave attempt to forestall football thuggery at home, police forces across the country have publicised the launch of Operation Red Card - a crackdown on violence in public and private during the World Cup.

One of the concerned rozzers, Deputy Chief Constable Clive Wolfendale of North Wales Police, has pointed out the escalation of football-related jingoism in recent years and has warned that what starts with an excessive fondness for the St George flag can easily tip into criminality. "I ask that people appreciate the tensions that can be raised at this time, particularly if you end up being the victim of domestic violence."

Although it is a slightly odd way of putting it (presumably, the one group who do not needed to be reminded of the domestic dangers of football are its victims), the thinking behind Operation Red Card is based on experience. As a nation, the English are apt to respond defeat on the football field by going berserk - near where I live in East Anglia, a group of yobs besieged and attacked a pub where some luckless Portuguese-born locals had gathered to watch their team defeat England in the European Cup.

But if the police, social workers and domestic violence units are basing their evidence on sporting traumas of the past, they may be in for an even bigger shock. For English fans, the 2006 World Cup contains greater promise, and therefore more potential for disappointment and violence, than most recent tournaments. The problem here is simple: we really do believe that this time we can win.

It is slightly mysterious how this uncharacteristic mood of optimism developed. English clubs may have done well in Europe, but mostly with teams made up of foreigners. The manager is widely mocked in the press and our star player may not even take part. None of that seems to matter: 2006 is, we have convinced ourselves, going to be our year.

A national nervous breakdown is approaching. The absurdity of forever harping on about the only time England won a major football competition, a full 40 years ago, has suddenly become apparent to all but the most lame-brained nostalgia freaks. To an already volatile spirit of nationalism has been added a confusion of defiance, embarrassment and triumphalism, caused by events as various as the Iraq war and London's nomination as the Olympic venue is 2012.

There are other ominous elements. The event takes place in Germany. Our team has a foreign manager with a reputation for misbehaviour in his private life: oversexed Europeans can be guaranteed to annoy the English. Sporting snobbery pervades the British press and is as evident in the universal admiration of our cricketers and rugby players as in the sneering superiority with which the activities of footballers - such as the charity party recently held by our most dignified sports star, David Beckham - tend to be reported. An unattractive strain of misogyny marks public attitudes to the better known women associated with the English football team, Victoria Beckham and Nancy Dell'Olio. Politically, the country is restive; after nine years, the electorate is bored and irritated by its government, like someone at the dreary fag-end of a dead marriage.

"Most of all to remember that football is only a game," Deputy Chief Constable Wolfendale has said, but his brave, inarticulate words have a plaintive note of defeat about them. Whether England is dumped out of the World Cup in humiliating fashion or go down valiantly to a better team, the rage and disappointment will be there. We are not good losers at the best of times; when we fail and there are no foreigners to chase down the street, we fight tearfully amongst ourselves.

There is, of course, the other frightening, unlikely possibility. It is, frankly, almost impossible to imagine the level of insanity that will be unleashed should England actually win the World Cup. It would be good to think that a new mood of generosity and optimism would descend upon the nation, perhaps leading to a Summer of Love as it did all those years ago.

Somehow that seems unlikely. Take a look at a football crowd after its team has won a big match. The modern way is to taunt the opposition, to prance monkey-like about the pitch in gloating triumph. The police officers preparing for Operation Red Card are probably aware that winning will have even more alarming results on the streets and in homes than losing. Either way, we are in for a bumpy ride.

terblacker@aol.com

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Senior Sales Broker - OTE £100,000

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportuni...

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Day In a Page

Read Next
9.4 million people watched the first of the three-way debates at the last election. The audience for the one on Thursday is likely to be far lower.  

David Cameron needs to learn some new tricks – and fast

Steve Richards
The 2010-formed Coalition was led by a partly reformed Conservative Party, checked and balanced by Nick Clegg  

How did the Coalition ever manage to work together so harmoniously?

Isabel Hardman
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor