Letter: Flag of incitement

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Sir: At this time of great debate about national independence, and indeed about the role of our monarchy, I feel particularly sensitive to sightings of the Union flag. One place I did not expect to find it was at a recent football match in Czechoslovakia.

Boby Brno were playing Slovan Bratislava at home; the stadium was packed. Only one section of the home crowd was rowdy. They threw smoke bombs and chanted and whistled incessantly. The visiting supporters were outnumbered, of course, but made up for it with extra noise and toilet rolls as well as the Slovak national anthem.

What surprised me, however, was the sight of numbers of British Union flags in both the rowdy areas. My Czech companion remarked: 'They admire your British hooligans, you know.'

This uncomfortable moment came back to me a few days later, on the home-bound cross-Channel ferry. Glancing though a tabloid paper (the Independent being unavailable) I found an editorial detailing grants given by a council to various Asian organisations. It was a cold incitement to racial hatred, and yet technically speaking it was not, because there was no inflammatory language. It made my flesh creep, as the 'Union Jacks' had done. I felt a strong urge to leave by the next ferry, but where can one go these days to escape distorted nationalism?

Yours faithfully,


Iford, East Sussex