Shame is a powerful emotion and I rarely allow it to sneak onto my palette of feelings but today I’m ashamed to be an England football supporter. All the media hype around our early World Cup exit leaves me ashamed that as a country we don’t support our team. It seems we are more interested in the result than supporting the men that represent us in the World Cup.
The World Cup is a competition
I know it’s a competition and we wanted to win (although nearly everyone knew that was pretty unlikely). I’m all for competition and I’m all for winning. I’m not party to the whole ‘run a race and we’re all winners’ thing. Even when I’m out for a jog on my own, I’m in competition with myself or any other person wearing trainers. I have thankfully matured to the point of not doing a victorious punch in the air when passing old ladies with walking sticks; but I still know winning matters.
Are we really supporters?
My issue is calling ourselves supporters. I have a problem with standing on the sidelines, physically or metaphorically, and chanting our songs of encouragement when it’s going well but then resorting to throwing abuse when it isn’t. Sure we have the right to be upset when England lose a game in the World Cup, but let’s not kid ourselves that how we feel from a sofa, pub or grandstand comes close to the emotions on the pitch. The disappointment that accompanies that moment in your life when your last chance to play in a World Cup, the dream you held as a child, is gone. It worries me that this shows a strong and underlying belief that our worth is solely dependent upon our achievements. That as a society even being the best at your game isn’t good enough. What does this say to everyone else who doesn’t even get on the pitch? I’ll go to two sport days this term and I will passionately cheer on my boys. My youngest will do his darnedest knowing he won’t come close to winning and my eldest will take part in races that solely rely on how fast someone else is pushing his wheelchair or pulling his trike. What worries me is that when I’m screaming my disappointment and rage at the TV I’m teaching my kids that being a supporter only requires cheering when we’re winning. How can I then tell them that winning isn’t the only flavour of success; that doing your best counts too? How do I explain my pride in them stepping out and doing their best without it sounding like a hollow gong if my actions don’t follow suit.
What if we actually became supporters?
Just imagine if, as a country, we decided not simply stand on the sideline as judges ready to litter the pitch with our abuse and disapproval. What if we became true supporters of our World Cup team? What if we recognised doing your best, as well as winning the World Cup? And don’t tell me any player out on that pitch did not want to do their best. They may not have played the best football of their career but that was certainly their intention. And while I’m at it, let’s not get on our high horses about how much adulation and money these players receive. Both of those things are our responsibility. We follow the teams, we watch the matches, we buy the merchandise and get swayed by the endorsements. We are party to the football bubble. But what if we met the team at the airport and cheered rather than jeered? What if we celebrated them taking the challenge of playing in the World Cup, against the best and being their best? What if we showed ourselves to be supporters of our country and our players, not just the result?