Insights from the UK and beyond
Two world wars… oh let’s grow up
George Orwell famously described sport as “war minus the shooting” and that seems to be the way many English approach a World Cup encounter with Germany.
Dubious jokes are circulating equating the 2010 World Cup with the 1939-1945 World War (don’t ask). The British press are riding a wave of jingoism with Kaiser Franz (Beckenbauer, that is) cast in the role of bogeyman in chief and plenty of Herr puns.
There are fears that England fans will revert to boorish type in Bloemfontein on Sunday after their unblemished behaviour in the tournament so far. The combination of a sweltering weekend, plenty of drinks and the big game on Sunday will doubtless fray the nerves of many of the folk back home.
The whole attitude is summed up by the tasteless “two World Wars and one World Cup chant” and the Spitfire impersonations.
But isn’t it time we got over this? Isn’t all this harking back to 1966 a sign of our weakness and insecurity?
That was one World Cup but most of us are too young to remember it, even if we were alive to see it.
There have been plenty of World Cups since then and we have succumbed to (West) Germany on notable occasions, 1970 when Bonetti took the blame and 1990 when Gazza cried and English dreams died.
Sure it would be great to beat Germany, and victory on penalties would be sweetest of all. But success on the pitch won’t turn the clock back to a mythical golden age when Britannia ruled the waves.
England v Germany is a great sporting occasion. Let’s celebrate it for what it is — a bit of fun in the summer sun.
And as a reward and test for our new found maturity, we might get to play Argentina in the last eight.