Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: World Cup sure to stir our tribalism

Every weekend during the football season thousands of fans in Northern Ireland head for various English cities to follow the fortunes of the Premiership favourites.

Yet the minute any of those same players pull on an England jersey, many of those same fans will gladly cheer on the opposition. Some of the anti-England sentiment is both historical and political. Hating the Saxon foe is almost a reflex action for many people.

But it is probably the English supporters and media which cause the most antipathy among football fans in the other home countries. They dislike the arrogance of the Three Lions supporters - as well as their penchant for violence - and the hype of the media.

England's chances of winning the World Cup -which begins on Friday - are already being talked up. When the team exits the tournament the blame will be attached either to poor refereeing, or some cruel blow of fate.

It is never the fault of the mediocre players.

And then there are the constant references to 1966, when England triumphed on home soil in a tournament otherwise notable for the amount of foul play that went unpunished. Yes, the team did well, but that was nearly 50 years ago. Get over it.

Of course it would be great if fans of all the countries on these islands could band behind whichever team qualifies for the final stages of a major football tournament.

But sport has a great capacity for stirring up primeval passions, which often overtake reason.

Of course, there is another team competing in South Africa which many people on this island have cause to hate, even more than England.

Remember Thierry Henry and his hand ball assist for the goal which knocked the Republic out of the finals?

Maybe this is a time to throw our weight behind England, and save our venom for Henry and the French.


From Belfast Telegraph