For the past few weeks I have been watching the football (or what my American friends call soccer). Now I have a few more grudges to bear against the English.
The team I support is the traditional adversary to the English team, but they have sadly let me down and did not make it past the first round. And now I am reduced to watching England advance, to the sound and visuals of gloating on BBC and ITV. I cannot help my growing irritation at their self-satisfied commentary. And of course, the English inevitably remind me of the Englishman I accidentally fell in love with. Given my poor luck, which has officially now become much worse than England’s chances in a penalty shoot-out, England will make to the final and probably win the World Cup and I will have to bear even more grudges against the English for the next four years, until somebody else unseats them from their throne as World Champions.
My dislike of team England has a long history. It was born in family arguments over football clashes, then was deepened and justified over politics, over my dislike of the Syrian first lady, who is British, and my feud with my British cousins who are staunch supporters of the Syrian regime. As the years pass, I seem to accumulate more and more reasons to dislike the British in general, and the English in particular. I was thrilled when little Iceland humbled England at the Euro 2016. That defeat came very shortly after the Brexit referendum, and it seemed like poetic justice that a tiny European nation could bring England and their hooligan fans to grief. I think everyone in Europe felt a certain measure of schadenfreude then.
While watching the World Cup now, I collect and catalog all the reasons why I dislike the British teams. And incidentally, why should the UK continue to have four teams to compete with internationally? One could argue that the other three teams hardly made any waves, but there have been at least one world cup with three British teams (out of a total of 24 teams) which hardly seems fair for all the other national teams who missed out just because Scotland or Northern Ireland defeated them at some point (Wales to my knowledge never made the World Cup). Also, when Britain is such melting-pot of immigrants, why is the English team so pathetically English? Where are the British Pakistanis, Indians and Arabs? Is there a secret sorting mechanism that dictates that certain ethnicities are only good at cricket, badminton or squash? Or are all these people living on British soil not good enough to represent British teams? Other European nations do not seem to have this problem, and they regularly include players of immigrant stock on their teams.
The questions are all legitimate, even if they serve as justification of an old grudge. But even as I write this, I realize that my Englishman is hugely responsible for this new intensity in my desire to see England out of the World Cup. The more I see of team England, the more I think of him, and I only want to forget about them, and about him. Ironically, the Englishman in question could not care less about his national team. He told me once that out of the four teams he would probably support Wales. He is like that, an Englishman by birth and pedigree but a supporter of the underdog. I think he would get irritated with the self-congratulatory attitude and commentary on British television.
My Englishman is English only on the outside but his heart and soul are not. Still, I wish that my heart had seen this predicament coming and steered away from anything English. I should have fallen for a considerate Frenchman instead*.
* Hats off to Antoine Griezmann, my new football crush. He did not celebrate the goal he scored today against Uruguay out of respect to his Uruguayan counterparts. The goal was credited to Griezmann but was a result of fatal error from the keeper Fernando Muslera.