, February 06, 2023

The madness of football, collaboration and is it different from jingoism?

  •   3 min reads
The madness of football, collaboration and is it different from jingoism?

England has reached the final of the Euros, creating a level of support that borders on madness; not everyone likes it; some call it jingoism.

When Boris Johnson said that the country needs goods news after a period of such gloom, did he not overlook something?  The gloom has been global, and England's success is another country's failure.  It was not a smart thing to say; it smacked of Little Englanditus.

"Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that," said the late manager of Liverpool FC, Bill Shankly.

It is a funny quote, but part of the reason why it is funny is precisley because we know it is absurd.

Football is just a game; it is not like the gladiatorial contests of Ancient Rome, which really were a matter of life and death (sometimes.)

It is all a bit absurd. England is through to the final of the Euros, and the way the country has reacted, you would have thought everyone had simultaneously won the lottery.

It is ridiculous, but most people, indeed the vast majority of people, understand this. Even so, this writer was hoarse last night shouting at the TV.

Many times, this writer had been depressed watching his favourite team lose and besides himself with joy when they win. It is not rational, and maybe in a thousand years, our descendants will look back at such moments and wonder at how primitive we were. But it is what it is. I am not ashamed to say I felt a slight tingling of irrational pride when England qualified for the final, just as I felt sick when Chris Waddle and Stuart Pearce missed penalties in the World Cup 1990 and Southgate missed in 1996. I don't know why it matters to me, but it does.

Football is not a zero-sum game; there must be losers. And economics says everyone can win from an economy's success. Investing is like that, too; it is not a zero-sum game. And we get annoyed if the economy produces outcomes that favour some at the expense of others. But, unlike sport, it is not necessary.

Business and investing is about collaboration and creating win-win situations; sport is not.

Except, most of us get something from the sport even when our team loses; maybe it is camaraderie. Supporters of losing teams continue to scream for their club, and England supporters have indeed suffered 55 years of hurt.  If their team won all the time, it wouldn't be fun.

Denmark lost, and their fans were dejected. Do we England supporters feel sorry for them? Maybe a tad, but no doubt the Danes don't want sympathy.

However not everyone sees it like that. So Raheem Sterling may have dived his way to earning a penalty. So, a fan may have shone a light on the face of Denmark's magnificent goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel just before Harry Cane took his penalty.

Does that make England's victory hollow? Does it make England's fans hypocrites for complaining about Maradona's hand of god goal but celebrating England's victory?

The answer to that is three-fold.

  • Firstly, it looks unlikely that the laser affected Schmeichel's save, and while  Sterling may have dived, this is debatable, and VAR evidence of cheating is ambiguous. In both cases, it was nothing like Maradona deliberately punching the ball into the goal, from an Englishman's point of view.
  • Secondly, Danish players also dived, England had another penalty appeal disallowed, and one England player, Harry Maguire, was yellow-carded when he may not have even committed a foul.  So these things tend to even out.
  • But thirdly, quite frankly, all football fans are hypocrites; they celebrate a certain move by their team and hate it when the opposing team does something similar. But, again, it is the nature of sport; hypocrisy is part of the fun.

Not everyone sees it like that. Twitter saw a storm of protest.

See the comments accompanying this tweet; this is not a criticism of the Tweet, which was nuanced, but the comments.

Look, it is not rationale. If we were rational, there would be no competitive sport. Instead, England and Denmark would have graced the field with an exhibition of their skills with no side winning.

It is not like that though; my great, great, great, great, great (and many more greats) grandchildren may look back at us with disgust. But I loved it, and I cheered England, but that does not make me a jingoistic fascist.

PS: Did I imagine this, or was Denmark a team of giants? I kind of think I had an inkling of what it must have felt like that for King Alfred's Anglo Saxons fighting the Danes, from whom I believe I am descended, back in the 9th Century.

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