St. George's day, and as is custom in England, there were numerous newspaper articles lamenting the loss of a great tradition of a national holiday celebrating England - Ireland have St. Patrick's Day, the United States have the 4th of July...and so on and so on. No doubt plenty of things have been said about English and their patriotism/lack thereof. However, despite the relative unimportance of St.George's day in the English calender, I argue that, perhaps, the English are more patriotic than ever...it is simply manifested differently - through sport.
I know, I know, I would say that in a sports blog; but no one who has ever been to England during a World Cup could possibly argue any different.
For those of you who don't know, England's sporting teams are notoriously unlucky and decidedly average at many sports that we so arrogantly consider to be "ours"; and none more so than the England football team. In the 46 years since 1966, England have failed to win a single World Cup or European Championship. This then, is a tribute to our great, underachieving English football team!
We Was Robbed!
We English do love a good scapegoat. The following are specific reasons why we did not win certain past Word Cups/European championships.
1986 - The "Hand of God" - Maradona cheats to win. In the aftermath of the Falklands War, it is a rivalry that has lasted to this day.
Of course, he also scored a rather good second goal...but we ignore this.
1998 - David Beckham gets sent off. Becomes a hate figure in England.
If you don't know what happened, you can watch it here.
Euro 2004 - The goal that never was, by Sol Campbell.
2010 - The goal that most definitely was, but the linesmen were blind.
Germany went on to win 4-1, but this goal would have made it 2-2, with the momentum in England's favour.
For some reason, there exists a curse that springs up as soon as England are involved in a penalty shoot-out. Having only won one in the six that they have been involved in in major competitions, they are not what we would call "penalty masters". And they are usually lost in excruciating circumstances against the Germans. So long World Cup 1990, 1998, 2006 and Euro 1996 and 2004.
On the Plus Side...
English football fans are among the best in the world, and hopefully one day we will be rewarded with a victory that will spark celebrations that will be even greater than when the rugby team won the World Cup in 2003.
But until then, we will just continue to be fiercely patriotic. At least when England play.