Sunday, 13 June 2010

On Moaning (or England's National Passtime)

For the last couple of weeks, World Cup-related advertising has assaulted me at every turn. England legends of the past stare meaningfully down from billboards and St George's flag flutters from every other car or house. TV guides are chock full of fixtures and when there are no games to fill the schedules they whack in a 'Top 50 Goals' or 'Most Shocking Football Moments' montage to ensure that the stay-at-home fan can remain wedged into his armchair and needn't seek entertainment elsewhere. N and my brother have even started collecting football stickers and have built up an impressive network of other collectors to swap with [all of whom are old enough to know better].

The World Cup is a unique event in a country so used to pessimism. It's unusual for the English to really get behind something and I'm relishing the surge of hope - all the more because we know exactly how hopeless our chances are but dive into a ridiculous patriotic hysteria nonetheless.

Whenever I see a TV interview with a South African [or whenever I manage to turn a work e-mail to S.A. into an opportunity for World Cup banter] I'm left with the impression that they are deeply proud of their country for hosting the tournament. A client from Johannesburg told me she couldn't sleep all weekend for the noise of the vuvuzelas, and liked it, as it added to the atmosphere. That must be some atmosphere. I know that there has been some criticism around the fact that such phenomenal sums of money could be better spent elsewhere - the Rainbow Nation is not without its problems - but then which country is? In my humble opinion, they've put on a great show so far and deserve to be proud of it [Although admittedly I am easy to please; opening ceremonies make me want to cry]. Of course, I actually know nothing and the South African papers and populace may have shat all over the World Cup preparations and hate it with a passion - but from an outsider's perspective, it looks good and I'm jealous.

Which brings me, finally, to my point. London is due to host the 2012 Olympics and I wish that we could be as proud as the South Africans seem to be. Alas no; it's highly unlikely that the English will ever manage to discard the national passtime that is moaning. The papers will rip it to shreds - some have already started. And just this evening I had the misfortune of overhearing a group of commuters on the train talk about how they're planning to book holidays to avoid the 'inconvenience'. The inconvenience caused by hosting what is possibly the world's most prestigious sporting event. I've don't think I've ever met anyone who hates the Olympics - it's like an all-you-can-eat buffet of a tournament, with something for everyone. I'd really like it if, just once, we could actually hope for something to be good, for it to go well, to work. If we could take the mentality we develop around the World Cup of hoping for the best, despite fearing failure, we could enjoy being the centre of something amazing. It seems a shame that while the eyes of the world are on London, Londoners will be running the other way. If I'm still here, which I fully intend to be, I think I might invest in a vuvuzela. Scrap that, I might buy one tomorrow and liven up the train to work.


  1. Personally, I don't exactly hate the Olympics even though Tae Kwon Do is the only sport I understand. No. Seriously. But if ever our country hosts the Olympics in the future (which, I think, is next to impossible), I'm expecting various reactions from people too. Some will be proud, of course. But some will complain. I think it's our passtime, too. To moan. *I* would be proud, honestly. It's probably the same in your country. You'll get different reactions from different people. Obviously, the person you overheard is not that into it. But you are. And I'm sure that you're not the only one over there who's into it.

    But it would be awesome to see everyone enjoying being the center of something amazing. It's a beautiful and passionate thought.

    And I agree with you that referring to the Olympics as "inconvenience" is way too-- moan-y.

  2. I left you a really long comment, but the blogger went psshh on me. Damn thing.

    Here's the general, even less articulate gist of what I was saying:

    I am so proud FOR South Africa. They seem to seriously love the sport (let's be honest, who doesn't?) and are determined to make the world sit up and take notice. It's slightly ridiculous how proud I am for them- and yes, proud is the right word because I'm not happy for them, I'm genuinely proud for the country and her citizens.

    I think football's such an ..institutionalised sport, it's difficult to not have it be such an ingrained part of you. I mean, you lot play it at school, have a footballing culture, a league, a home team etc. It's hard not to get in to it- and come on, it's football. It's hard not to get passionate about a team, right?

    Also, while the Brit papers can be quick to moan and bitch (see: poor Andy Murray); they're also quick to celebrate. When England won the Ashes a few years ago beating then world champions Australia.. wow. Vaughn and the team were hailed heroes! (and well, they kinda were..lucky ones, but still)

    I dunno. I don't know if moaning and bitching in the press is unique to the English press. I wonder if it's a default setting for hardened journalists. Where the critical analysis switches to constant criticism and critique. Hm.

    That's my call to go back to thesis reading. Good post! xx

    p.s: in the spirit of footy:

  3. I live in South Africa and am listening to the vuvuzela song right this second. Vuvuze-ella-ella-ella eh eh...:P