Stuck in the Middle With You: Tribalism is a Good Thing, Blind Arrogance is Not

Flint's Off on One

Sometimes we all feel like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Personally, I feel a bit like Stealers Wheel – clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. No surprise there you grumpy bastard, I hear you sarcastically say; well, once again I’m not wrong.

This week of course saw the resumption of European football – hooray, right? The football itself is of course welcomed back with open arms, but with it comes bone-headed prats. Red Star Belgrade v CSKA Moscow was a cracking tie in many ways, especially if you’re a fan of pyrotechnics. Russian clubs returning after their winter break summons up a bank of tools who arrogantly dismiss them out of hand.

Let’s fight fair for a minute, though. Of course everyone has their favourite team in the favourite league, and nobody has to like Russian football per se. Point taken. After the Harry Kane Team® stormed back from 2-0 down away to Juventus, a bizarre war broke out on Twitter. Apparently, it was too much for some that a number of folk has lavished obsequious praise on England’s saviour. “You’re blinded by bias towards English football” was one popular line. “He’s actually quite average technically,” was another. You get the picture – don’t get over-excited was the general theme.

Personally I think this is a bit fucking stupid. What is football, or more specifically football fandom, if you can’t get emotionally stirred by a rousing European away tie? Sure, some get carried away, so rib them if you want, but they’ll return the favour another time. That’s how it generally works. I’d be more concerned about people NOT being thrilled by any side breaking down Juventus.

Then on the other side, there was a chorus berating any non-Spurs English football fans with the chutzpah to not support a side they are not actually a supporter of. Confused? Me too. Actually scratch that – despite being wedged between two levels of idiocy, it was clear that a brew of Little Englander was breaking out.

I am still haunted by the image of the pot-bellied, bald tosser in my local during the World Cup 2006 with an England shirt bearing the “hilarious/clever” (delete as applicable) printing on the back:

  P R O U D

2 B E

E N G L I S H

He’s the Brexit-loving, Carling-swilling, vomit-inducing moron who has no clue what 90% of the words spewing out of his mouth actually mean, but takes them so desperately seriously nonetheless. He, in short, would be exactly the type to scream blue murder at anyone daring to not lend their allegiance.

Now hang on a minute. Why in God’s name should I support Spurs simply because they are an English side? Fuck off should I. What loyalty have they shown Manchester United? Sod all – and more to the point, why should they? The petty jealousy and hatred poured forth to United fans for daring to enjoy success meant it has been guaranteed for decades now that on any given European night in any neutral pub around the world, United’s opponents will be willed on.

Here’s the thing though: I’m completely fine with that. In fact I’d go further and say it enriches the experience of living through a season. In doing so, there is no arrogant subjugation of another’s views, but a healthy base for discussion. I don’t WANT Scouse fans backing my team -they’re only going to return to hating us the next day any way.

It all reminds me of the ‘claiming’ of Andy Murray’s nationality. When he is shite, he is Scottish, but when he wins Wimbledon, he’s British. Just make you minds up!