By the time The Badger has been printed and circulated around campus, Brighton, the UK and indeed the world, Ireland and England will have squared off in what many view as the game which will decide this years Six Nations championship. For the sporting novices amongst us, firstly welcome to the sports page, we’re here every week, and secondly I should point out that the Six Nations is an annual rugby tournament consisting of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy.
That’s six nations, hence the very clever name of the championship. Anyway, the Ireland vs. England match will have been watched up and down all six of the nations, and in our little corner of south-east England too, where the partisan crowd will be today nursing their throats with a lemsip or two having spent their Sunday afternoon screaming at their TVs hoping for an England win. I too will have no doubt endured a stressful Sunday watching the game and feeling every tackle as if I was there myself, but maybe my throat will be a little less sore because rather than joining the choruses of ‘Jerusalem’ I’ll have been keeping my mouth shut hoping to keep myself out of trouble because, whisper it quietly, I’m Irish.
Rugby is one of those rare sports where Ireland can offer up a very competitive team on a regular basis, and it’s for this reason that when it comes to rugby I take an anti-England stance, as they’re probably Ireland’s biggest opponents for this year’s title. However, rugby aside, I have no interest in jumping aboard the ABE (Anyone But England) bandwagon, on which many fans from the other parts of the British Isles seem to so firmly reside. I do study in England, which means for a lot of the year I live in England, this also means that a lot of my good friends are English, and I spend my weekends engrossed in the English football league, so I have no reason not to give them a friendly cheer on the international stage in sports such as football and cricket. This, as I mentioned, is not a sentiment shared by many of my own friends from back home, and I know the ABE sporting mentality has a strong following in Scotland and Wales too. To be expected perhaps. But what has shocked me more than anything else since arriving on these shores (with the exception of my rapidly diminishing bank balance) is that this anti-English mentality seems to be shared by many people, both fans and media, who themselves are English.
I owe this point some clarification; I don’t mean they share the same anti-English mentality in that they actively want their country to lose in international matches. What I mean is that many England fans whom I have watched games of football, cricket and rugby with seem to be on a mission to find fault with every aspect of England’s game, and refuse to acknowledge any decent achievements. Fair enough, England’s World Cup campaign way back in 2014 was about as disappointing as the ending of ‘The Sopranos’, but the reaction of the English press in its aftermath would have led you to believe that England were never going to win another game ever again, and that the whole team and system were a national embarrassment. Perhaps an unfair example as the World Cup was a particularly dark moment, but seriously, from my outside-looking-in perspective it is painfully apparent that English sports fans, a lot of the time, seem set on demolishing the confidence of their own teams through constant moans and groans at every turn.
In a ludicrously roundabout way my point is this: England has a lot of very good and very competitive national teams, stretching across numerous sports. Where I come from, we’ve got Rory McIlroy and a good rugby team and it seems a bizarre concept to not get behind our own team. Yet here I’ve picked up on this mentality amongst England fans that whatever the national teams do, it isn’t good enough. So come on England, give yourselves a break, I know you’re not the best at allowing this thought to enter you’re head but trust me, you really are quite good at sports.