|Illustration: Rob White|
When I worked at a petrol station in high school back home, we had a number of Maple Leaf flags dotted all around the forecourt. One day, an old fella came in, pointed at one of the flags and sneered, “That flag is a disgrace!”
“What do you mean?” I asked, thinking he must be some flag-hating, anti-government nut.
“What I mean is that young men died for that flag and you don’t have the decency to fly it properly. Just look at the state of it!”
You would’ve thought we’d lit the flag on fire and put it out by projectile vomiting on it. If you lowered the Hubble Telescope to gas pump level and pointed it straight at that flag, you’d only just make out the three threads flapping awry at the corner.
No matter how many times we replaced them, we always got complaints about the state of our flags. So I can only imagine what one of those geriatric Canuckian flag-spotters would say if we’d ever written 'World Cup Special! Fish, Chips & Mushy Peas for £2.99!' in scratchy black felt tip across the flag, like they do at my local chippy.
No true patriotic English footy fan is happy with the national flag as it is. It needs additions; accompaniments, if you will. The English flag is the tapas of national flags; the more added bits, the better. 'Nottingham Forest Football Club' is four words and there are four white rectangles on the English flag. Frankly, it would be an insult to maths not to fill them in.
Along with vandalising flags, people who love England grow potbellies and shave their heads. I assume this is homage to Churchill; He was morbidly obese, bald as a bean, and he really loved England, I hear. Obviously, tall, skinny, hairy people must hate England, like, say, Russell Brand. Just look at him - I bet he doesn’t even own a top hat. Kate Moss is obviously another rabid Blighty-despiser - not once have I ever seen her work a monocle into her ensemble. Osama Bin Laden, Jesus, Shaggy from Scooby Doo…the list of skinny, hairy anti-Anglos goes on and on.
Personally, I find most blatant displays of patriotism gag-inducing, especially during the World Cup, but it can be a good thing in small measures. The people I really don’t understand are the ones who don’t care about the England team at all. People who avoid watching the World Cup and who actually whinge about it taking up so much TV time - What is wrong with you? I don’t care if you’re depressed that England lose every time, or hooliganism makes you cringe, or if you hate Frank Lampard (who doesn’t?) - there is simply no excuse for not supporting your national side. Forget this community-volunteering BS Cameron keeps parping on about; watching England play in the World Cup with your mates should be required by law.
I actually had a mate of mine, a Manchester United fan, say to me, “I hope England lose.” He was more concerned about Rooney getting injured than England winning the biggest trophy on earth. Colonials will never understand this. You will never hear an American say; “Daggummit, what dang fool put all this dang track and field on my ding-dang picture box?” If the US had a decent Jai Alai team, Jai Alai fever would sweep the nation. Have you ever heard an Aussie sniveling about all the swimming on TV during the Olympics?
Take me, for example; I am not what one would call sporty. I’m a stumpy Canadian geek with the athleticism of a Teletubby and the coordination of a three-toed sloth on meow meow. I avoid playing sport like the plague, but that doesn’t stop me from watching Canada compete. In fact, when Canada won the ice hockey gold at the Winter games last February, I actually cried. Cried!
Perhaps you do want to participate in the World Cup revelry and drunken pub conversations but you know nothing of the England team. Let me give you a few pre-World Cup tips that will help get you up to speed:
1. Peter Crouch is aptly named, as he’s the only player who needs to crouch down to head balls in. He’s the guy that disappears when he turns sideways, which is why he is able to sneak into the box without being seen by the defenders.
2. David Beckham is the guy attending the World Cup in place of the WAGs. To keep the players from missing their wives too much, David’s going to orange his face up and stagger around the dressing room in high heels, pausing from his coke and G&T sessions just long enough to give John Terry a half-time hand-job.
3. Lampard and Gerrard go together like polar bears and armadillos. Lamps and Stevie G are two creatures that cannot exist together in the natural world. The only place they have any business being within 100 feet of each other is in an artificial environment like the zoo. Or Benidorm.
4. If you really do hate the England team and cannot watch them without booing, simply restrict your boos to whenever Ashley Cole touches the ball. No one will pay you any notice. In fact, it might get you laid.
5. Wayne Bridge is the idiot watching the World Cup from his couch because he traded his England career for a big, pink diamond tiara awarded every year to the biggest drama queen on earth.
It really is a lot of fun to be involved, from the absurd hope at the beginning of the competition all the way to the communal whinging when England go out on penalties. Singing songs, binge drinking and spouting borderline racist banter in the office - what’s not to like? Sure, you will be doused in cheap lager at some point, you may be on the wrong end of a shouting match or two, you’ll be embarrassed by other drunken English footy fans and, yes, your town centre will be transformed into a 24-hour townie-barf hell, but believe me, it could be worse: you could be supporting the Canadian soccer team.
Read more from Rob at robcutforth.com