Football

Red cross on white background actually quite harmless

I’ve been away from the internet for a couple of days, spectacularly failing to retain my title as UK Bonving Champion, and I see that Scott Burgess has already written about this, but I read Stephen Pollard’s article in the Times today about people daring to brandish, in public, the flag of their national football team during the World Cup, and thought he didn’t quite go far enough in heaping spleen and derision on people who think there’s anything remotely wrong with this.

There was an article last month by a man called Joseph Harker, who is apparently the Deputy Comment Editor of something called The Guardian, which I believe is a newspaper with which some of you may be familiar, warning that until Euro 96:

the only place the cross of St George was normally seen was at far-right political rallies. The flag has a long association with racism, intolerance and bigotry. In the past decade, though, the symbol has gone mainstream – you can’t pass a petrol station without seeing piles of them on sale – and its old link has largely been forgotten. And though many racial minorities in this country are still instinctively repulsed by the cross, some among them have begun to embrace it.

I don’t know if it’s true that there are people who are instinctively repulsed by the flag of the country they live in – most people I know are fairly indifferent to it – but if they’re beginning to embrace it then that seems a bit healthier to me. But apparently most of the people flying flags in their cars are “white, male, tattooed, pot-bellied 35 to 55-years-olds”. I’m not racist, sexist, sizeist or ageist enough to bother to make notes on who is and who isn’t using their car to demonstrate their support for England in the World Cup but personally I think there’s something a bit naff about all the flags you see on cars and elsewhere. On Saturday I was on a Bakerloo Line train a couple of seats down from a man wearing an England shirt, a curly blond wig, and a pair of comedy plastic breasts. It wasn’t hugely dignified. But even that was preferable – less naff, and less, what’s the word? Twattish – than the idea that he was somehow suspect, or racist. He was a football fan.

Mr Harker concludes:

I can’t help thinking that the BNP’s leaders are secretly smirking every time they see the flag. And, even more, I wouldn’t want to do anything that emboldens their hateful doctrine.

What, like turning a harmless piece of cloth into a political weapon? Ignoring a flag on a hatchback isn’t going to embolden the BNP. Demonising the bloke driving the car might do, though. Stephen Pollard also quotes an article by Janet Street Porter, in which she asks:

Why do we consider that slumping in front of a large screen holding a can of beer is an acceptable way to spend our time?

Well firstly of course don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. But maybe we consider it’s acceptable because some of us quite like to do it. If you don’t, that’s fine as well. There are museums, galleries, restaurants, theatres, and all the other places that people who don’t like the World Cup – which lasts for one single month every four years, by the way – can go to. Enjoy them. Enjoy yourself; they’ll probably be a bit emptier than usual. Anyway, we’re all allowed to do what we like, aren’t we? No, apparently. “Why is it socially OK to be a sports fan?”, Janet demands to know. Imagine for a second how bizarre it is to mind that somebody, somewhere, is watching and enjoying sport. To object to this so much that you write newspaper columns about it. Why is it socially OK to be Janet Street Porter? Oh I suppose it’s not.

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