Worn by an Irishman in Brazil for the World Cup
Who are you supporting in the World Cup? For some, this is an easy question to answer because you support the country you come from. If you come from the likes of Holland, Germany, Brazil, or Argentina you rarely, if ever, fail to qualify.
As an Englishman, I have experience of not qualifying. The 1994 World Cup in the USA took place without any country from the British Isles. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry too much about who to support as Ireland, the home of my dad and all my grandparents, had qualified.
It is one of my favourite World Cups because I didn’t need to obsess about form, injuries and referee decisions. There was also Paul McGrath repelling everything Italy could throw at Ireland and that Ray Houghton goal, and gambol, that got even my granny jumping around the room.
But for others, there is always the need to find a country to support.
Some people decide on a country because of geographical, familial or cultural ties. My dad, for instance, will always support England so long as Ireland are not involved. This is also true for pretty much all of my Irish relatives who live in England.
Some people decide to follow a team based on one or two individuals. I have a friend from New Zealand who loves Cristiano Ronaldo and so is supporting Portugal.
Others choose a team based on their style of play, so the likes of Holland attract a lot of fans.
If Brazil should ever fail to qualify for a tournament, then my wife will probably decide to support a team based on which one has the most good-looking players. This time around, it would be Spain, apparently.
These are all good, positive ways of choosing a country to support. But there is also a negative way of choosing, based on a country that, for whatever reason, you hate.
Some people choose not to support England on this basis, and it even has its own name: Anyone But England (ABE). A few years ago Andy Murray, the Wimbledon tennis champion, got into a lot of trouble when he suggested he would support anyone but England.
Sometimes, and I think this was the case with Andy Murray, it is just a bit of friendly banter between rivals. At other times it is seen as a way to get back at English arrogance and dominance. Then there is also the matter of history and how the English acted and behaved towards their Celtic neighbours.
This ABE idea is not just related to football. In rugby everyone wants to beat England and ups their game against us. And it is also not confined to the Celtic countries around England. Many Australians would also be very comfortable with the supporting anyone else at all.
Who are you planning to support?
While we hear a lot about the ABE campaign, the fact is that it is just a minority of people. A lot of Irish, Scots and Welsh do choose to support England. A recent Mori poll carried out in Scotland showed that 20% of the population planned to support England, while only 5% claimed to be supporting ABE.
Maybe one day Scotland will qualify for the World Cup and I can join an ‘Anyone But Scotland’ campaign. But to be honest, I don’t think Scotland are going to qualify soon and anyway, I’d much rather support Brazil. I might stand a chance of actually winning something, then.
This blog piece is a part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs series on World Cup for Kids. If you would like to follow the World Cup from the point of view of kids around the world then please go and check out the site. There are bloggers from all of the competing countries as well as articles about Brasil and how to get kids interested in sport.