Belfast Telegraph

Anyone but England? Northern Ireland World Cup fans split over backing Southgate’s boys

By Christine Carrigan

England may be in the grip of World Cup fever, but in Northern Ireland support for the Three Lions has always been a controversial topic.

Gareth Southgate's side take on Colombia tonight for a place in the quarter-finals. And while the Green and White Army may not have made it to Russia, lending support to other teams - particularly one of our neighbours - doesn't always come easily for some.

In Belfast yesterday opinion was divided on whether people should be backing England's quest to end more than half a century of World Cup woes.

Peter Allen, who follows the Premier League, said the number of English club players in the national team made it easy to support Southgate's side.

"I am supporting England this year," he said.

"I watch the Premier League week in and week out; I just think that it would be foolish not to support the team that has all of the players that you watch every week."

Connor Moore agreed: "Yes, I will be supporting them this year, I like the players that are playing for the England team.

"It's fair enough that people might not be supporting them. Each to their own, people are sometimes just too loyal to Northern Ireland or Ireland."

Northern Ireland's World Cup dreams were ended after a play-off defeat to Switzerland last November. Scotland, Wales and the Republic also failed to qualify for Russia.

Pete Bates (23), who works as a surveyor in Belfast, said it was an easy decision to lend support to the English.

"There is no other home nation in the World Cup and I have always just grown up with them," he said.

"It is always on the BBC and things like that. So it just makes sense to get behind England."

Gary Richardson (23), who works as a banker, said: "I am only supporting them because they are the only UK team in the competition."

However, for some fans it is an altogether different affair. Hype has grown following wins against Tunisia and Panama in England's opening two games.

Some yesterday said they wouldn't back England because they were fed up with all the attention.

Belfast local Jack Ward said: "I am actually not because I get fed up with the constant media coverage of the England team.

"I am a big football fan, but I mainly follow Spanish football so I just get a bit frustrated with the constant stream of news of the Premier League and the England team.

"I have just become so apathetic about it that I actually cheer against them."

Kevin Aldridge (21), an intern at Liberty IT, jokingly said: "I am not from England so don't like to see them win.

"Honestly, though, I would just like to a see a country that hasn't won before win the World Cup.

"I feel like if England won we would be hearing about it for a very long time."

Others had more sporting reasons for not supporting England at the World Cup.

Darryl Wallis said he would prefer to see an underdog win the competition.

"I'm not really supporting England. I'd support Northern Ireland or Ireland if they went through, failing that I would support the underdog," he said.

"I supported Mexico and Egypt early on but obviously they have been knocked out now. It just makes the game a bit more exciting for me, rather than pegging all my interest in one team because I don't really support the team outside of the country."

Liberty IT intern Andrew Coulter (21) has a vested interest in who he is backing.

"Some people in the country are supporting England, some aren't," he said.

"It is good to see England doing well but personally I won't be backing them this year because I got France in the sweepstake."

Belfast Telegraph

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