Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Three lions? Not on my shirt

I was watching the England Germany match the other night and came to a realization that I didn't really care for the England team any more. Big deal you say? Maybe....

I'll tell you why this is significant to me. I was born in England and lived there until I was 4. I had an 'England - World Cup Winners 1966' pennant on my wall. I played soccer as a kid, terrorizing the opposing goal as an under 10. I watched replays of the English premiership on tv at a time when liverpool dominated, people like Alan Hansen, Kenny Dalglish, John Barnes, Grahame Souness. I loved soccer. The first world cups I remember watching involved the Brazilians, people like Zico and Socrates, who we only got to watch once every 4 years. Then there was the 'hand of God' incident where I learned to dislike the Argentines, and I also had to dislike the Germans for knocking out England in penalty shootouts.

Watching Gascgoine play in Italia 90 was a great memory. That extra time goal by David Platt against Belgium.

Euro 96 was a blast - that awesome goal from Gascoine against the Scots and then Shearer and co. hammering the Dutch, only for penalties again.

France 98 looked promising, with a young Owen on the rise, but the Argentines again, with the help of a stray Beckham leg, put an end to it. Lots of good memories, followed by disappointment.

Growing up in Australia and having come from England, I felt a bit different to the others. I had a slightly funny accent. I sort of felt Australian, but I also felt English, even when I didn't really remember England much anymore. I supported England in the soccer, because Dad did, because I still felt English, and because Australia had no team to speak of. I never remember the Australian team being on TV, whereas during the world cups England were sort of a proxy team for Australia. Most people, I think at that time, wanted to see them do well, because English soccer was what they knew.

I went back to England for the first time when I was 22 and I had a great time. I got along with my relatives really well, and I really felt comfortable there, it's a great country. But it made me realize that I wasn't English, I was Australian. I think that this is pretty common for children of first generation immigrants who go back to their country of origin.

So what took me so long to arrive at this decision? I had a habit of following the England team, and I was a loyal supporter. I would watch games with my England shirt on and jump off the couch when they scored. This world cup I watched most of the England games in bed, and even if my achilles tendon hadn't been broken, I'm not sure I would have jumped around too much. When it came to the final game against Germany, the disallowed goal was just plain wrong, but teams with heart can fight against adversity rather than capitulate into disarray. I just didn't feel anything for this team, they threw it away for whatever reason (and many have been postulated). I realized at that moment that I was done. Thanks for the memories, we can still be friends, but I just don't love you anymore.

I will be happy if the England team win something in the future, but my support is now firmly with the Australian team. I wish they weren't called the socceroos, it's just plain wrong, but I'll live with it. It's an exciting time for soccer in Australia. We have challenges ahead playing in the Asian conference against teams like South Korea and Japan who are starting to establish themselves on the world stage. We have some old players who have served well, but should now be shipped out to make room for the new generation. I'm looking forward to it.

That's it. The three lions are going on ebay.