Much as I hate to disagree with Gary Younge, I can't get on board with his utopian vision of the upcoming FIFA world cup evoking a "collective sense of latent English identity...infused with positive energy." I despise the world cup. I will not be supporting England, nor any other team. I refuse to get excited about some wealthy misogynist jocks tossing a ball around in the name of patriotism and product endorsement.
Mistrust of team sport as a fulcrum of social organisation comes naturally to me. I'm a proud, card-carrying member of the sensitive, wheezy, malcoordinated phalanx of the population for whom the word 'football' still evokes painful memories of organised sadism and unspecified locker-room peril. I'm a humourless, paranoid liberal feminist pansy who would prefer to spend the summer sitting in dark rooms, contemplating the future of the British left and smoking myself into an early grave.
The fact remains, however, that there are more pressing things to worry about over the soccer season than the state of Frank Lampard's admittedly shapely calves. This country is in crisis. Young people are in crisis, poor people are in crisis, unemployment stands at 2.5 million, the Labour movement is still leaderless and directionless, and there's a brutal train of Tory public service cuts coming over the hill. In short, the left has more important things to do than draw up worthy charts determining which FIFA team is worth supporting on the basis of global development indicators.
The British left has an uneasy relationship with international sport. Liberal alarm bells can't help but be set ringing when a bunch of overpaid PE teachers get together to orchestrate a month of corporate-sponsored quasi-xenophobia; however, as soon as world cup fever rolls around, members of the otherwise uninterested bourgeois left feel obliged to muster at least a sniffle of enthusiasm, sensing that not to do so is somehow elitist.
This is a misplaced notion: football is no longer the people’s sport. Just look at the brutal contempt that the police reserve for fans, or count the number of working-class Britons who can afford to attend home matches, much less the festivities in South Africa.
Then there’s the uncomfortable fact that the world cup is only and always about men. Younge is right to celebrate the fact that race is no longer an impediment to his young niece and nephew’s vision of football as a world ‘in which that they have a reasonable chance of succeeding’ – but unfirtunately, his niece can forget about it. [read the rest at New Statesman]