Do Arsenal fans care about England?

Another ball squirms away. Another poor piece of control. Rooney puffs his cheeks. Where have I seen that before? Think back to England’s World Cup warm up match against Mexico on May 25th, where you will recall Rooney blowing hot and rolling his eyes when Theo Walcott passed the ball too late. Rooney was offside and the chance was lost. Rooney didn’t look at Walcott, didn’t even acknowledge him. A week later Walcott was left out of the England squad. Nothing had changed last night, just on the occasion, Rooney shunted not one player but the whole team. And then the nation. But as Arsenal fans, do we really care?
Watching England last night was enough to turn a recovered heroin addict back to a life of drug-bent compulsion, the football was that frustrating. At the time I felt I needed some form of medication myself to ease the grappling irritation of such a grim performance. In the heat of the moment I cared. Verbal abuse was hurled at the television, then in the direction of our football illiterate female company, and then when there was nobody left to aim at, swear words of all kinds just filled the room at random.
Three St George’s flags flap outside our house, and to note, all were hoisted by the Arsenal side of the family, not the West Ham fraction. Born and bred in Barking and Dagenham, I know all about what it means to be a proud national. Nowhere flies the colours higher than Bobby Moore’s home town. At one stage in the first-half against Algeria Steven Gerrard sprayed a ball out left to Ashley Cole, who got free from his opponent and burst into the penalty area. Without knowing it I had cried out “Go on Ash”, as if this player who I insulted all season at Chelsea was now a personal friend of mine.
Today though it is quite amusing to wake up and hear the people’s castigation of England, knowing it had nothing to do with Arsenal. How funny to see Wayne Rooney change overnight from the Twenty-first Century St George into the anti-Christ of our national sport. Rooney will feel the backlash for his sarcastic criticism of those England fans who booed the team off the pitch inside Green Point Stadium. After all, nobody questions an English football fan. Rooney might have many privileges, immunities and exemptions, but that just isn’t one of them.
So do I care about England or not? In the heat of battle I did, I was red with rage; a ghastly beast of profanity far from the English gent those poor girls once thought I was. Maybe I was a bigger England fan supporting dreaded Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham players, than Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham fans themselves. I was equal at least. The bigger problem is that Arsenal fans might feel this tournament has nothing to do with them, as they are told by the superpatriot who takes pleasure in this reality. This could well be the reason for my own pleasure then when the superpatriot’s team does badly.
If I am to be this outsider though, well at least my vantage point allows me to see more clearly where things have gone wrong for England. Where the diehard might fall for the soppy ‘we believe in you England’ fairytale prattle, the Arsenal fan most likely doesn’t. Terry Venables singing things like “please let my dream come true” might work for the Tottenham fan, but to me it’s just sloppy Disney romance. Maybe this makes me unpatriotic. Maybe I don’t care.
And then there’s James Cordon, Fabio Capello’s happy-go-lucky disciple. Funny man of the people who shows us how to have a laugh while reminding everyone of the lighter side to football. And the nation sings and dances along to his made-up England hymns and World Cup wall chart, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty and England lose, then it’s not all nursery rhymes and child games, its anger and destruction. Passing by a well-know devoted England pub today, police tape, a forensic tent and broken benches were the telling sings of fury that England had drawn with Algeria.
One thing the English are good at though is laughing off the bad times. No doubt we’ll soon be making fun of Emile Heskey tripping over the ball and thinking for a second he was Cristiano Ronaldo. I suspect you’ve all heard the joke about having Rob Green for a father being more embarrassing than a male prostitute. If England really want to win a World Cup then I suppose the country needs to be more serious. Stop with the silly shows, the fascination with Crouchy’s robot and somebody please take the microphone off El Tel.
Really though, as an Englishman I think we’d rather keep the gags and revel in another tragic World Cup. Show off the English stiff upper-lip and still turn out for games, win, lose or draw. Isn’t that what makes us the best fans around? My feeling is England like a sad story, and if there’s anything Arsenal fans know about, it’s a sad story. I guess then, we’re not so different me and you, Mr England fan.

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