They think it's all over. We don't

Let us hope for a wonderful celebration of sporting excellence at the World Cup. Let us give it a go: anything can happen

Share

England is strangely ungripped by World Cup fever. Its white vans are, mostly, unbedecked by crosses of St George, although the competition starts on Thursday and kick-off in England's opening game, against Italy, is only six days away.

Partly, this may be a matter of unspoken mutual expectations management. Being knocked out of the competition on penalties in the quarter-finals has become as much a part of Englishness as rain and teabags.

It is true, as David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, once said, that the English are the only people capable of feeling Schadenfreude about themselves. They wallow in the improbability of their team actually winning, while secretly keeping a tiny flame of hope alive. That is partly the fruit of years of bitter experience. Of going into the competition thinking England has four or five world-class players and then realising that they are not world class at all. Of thinking that England is going to sail through the group stage and then having to grind out a couple of lucky defensive no-score draws. Of deciding that the team's problem is that it does not have a foreign manager or that it has. This time the bookies say the odds are 28/1 and no one is quite sure whether this means "no chance at all" or "promising giantkiller potential".

Also, English self-deprecation may a form of politeness towards the Scottish people, who are shortly to vote on whether or not to be independent. The one thing that might tilt the referendum might be a premature display of three-lions triumphalism south of the border. An untrumpeted and unexpected run into the later stages of the competition, on the other hand (talking of keeping the flame alive), might bring the United Kingdom together despite itself.

Another reason, perhaps, for the fanfare in a minor key is the low reputation that Fifa, world football's ruling body, currently enjoys. In Brazil, the World Cup has been blighted by stories about stadiums not being ready and a popular resentment in the favelas against what is seen as a celebration of big money that will do nothing for the masses. While Fifa's credibility has been further undermined by new allegations of corruption about the way the 2022 World Cup was awarded to Qatar. In a way, the allegations come as no surprise: the idea of playing football in 40-degree heat suggests that the decision was, at the very least, foolish.

The Independent on Sunday is, however, a young and optimistic newspaper. We do not want to do anything quite so un-British as saying that England have a better chance than other countries might think, but we do say: let us enter into the spirit of the thing.

Roy Hodgson, the England manager, is a bit more human and thoughtful than the leadership to which we are accustomed. The team is young and untested. So much so that Simon Brodkin, the comedian, thought he could get on the team plane to Miami last week just by dressing in the team suit. (He could not.)

Let us hope for a wonderful celebration of sporting excellence and international comradeship. There is nothing wrong with a bit of mild sporting nationalism, especially when it involves revelling in the multiple nationalisms of our United Kingdom and reclaiming the cross of St George from the retreating forces of the far right. Let the sun shine some of the time and, when it is all over, let us discover that a face-saving deal has been done to take the World Cup after next away from Qatar. Let us give it a go: anything can happen.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Analyst

£30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable software house is looking ...

Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

Commercial Litigation

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Assistant Editor: Domestic violence is no petty matter

Siobhan Norton
 

There’s nothing wrong with GM

Steve Connor
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried