As I watched the news on Thursday morning I was cheerfully informed by the reporter that England had beaten Denmark the night before. I raised my eyebrows…then made breakfast.
This low key response to an England result is a fairly new phenomenon for me, for there used to be a time when I would look forward to all England games and when involvement in international tournaments would bring my life to a standstill. But as I’ve grown up it feels like England and I have drifted apart, like a parent and their teenage son.
It’s hard to pin-point exactly when the national side began to lose my affection, but I knew that the damage had been done when England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and I wasn’t too bothered. I subsequently found that I enjoyed the tournament a lot more without having to feign a favouritism towards the Three Lions and realised that the two weeks were a lot more pleasurable without the media forcing a pair of St George’s Cross spectacles in front of my eyes.
I always feel a sense of mediocrity when an England squad is announced. I’m pretty sure that a place in the England side used to be reserved for the country’s footballing elite and thus being called-up would be a real honour. But the amount of conveniently timed injuries and last minute withdrawals that occur before England games means that calling up a player to the squad can often be nothing more than a last resort. This is the only reason that I can think of for the inclusion of Gabriel ‘one goal and one assist so far this season’ Agbonlahor. Nowadays if you’re an English player plying your trade in the Premier League and you don’t have an international call-up to your name, perhaps you should consider changing the day job.
I find that I can’t help but see international football as a mere sideshow to its domestic counterpart. I’m sure that I’m not alone as a fan in feeling this way and it’s largely down to the clubs themselves that I do. There can’t be a major club in the world that isn’t reluctant to share its players with their respective countries of birth and this feeling of animosity inevitably filters down to the fans – and it only takes one injury to a star player on international duty to cement these feelings. Arguably the measure of a country’s footballing prowess is no longer its national side but the strength of its domestic structure, so is it any surprise that people feel this way?
Should we be obliged to feel an affinity towards the England national team that burns as brightly as with my favorite club team?
The tie we have towards our national team is like an arranged marriage. It is decided for us before we have the cognitive ability to make an informed decision ourselves, so we just kind of go with it because we get the impression that it’s the right thing to do. Plus, you know it’ll make your father happy.
But the passion we feel for our chosen clubs is like the buzz you feel when you start dating a new partner. This is the choice you’ve made, they may not be the most beautiful person in the room, and you may have needed some gentle encouragement from your friends, but dammit they’re a good fit for you and you’ll do all you can to make this work! You’ve chosen your team from a list of 92 and you’re instantly smitten. This is it for life and you wouldn’t have it any other way.