do not mention the war

England’s colours: a press review

In England, Football, Identity, Stereotypes on September 12, 2011 at 15:45

I was fortunate to get hold of a copy of the Sun‘s Saturday edition (i didn’t buy it!!!) on my way back from a conference in London. The things i found were quite interesting.

For a start there was a reminder that England won the World Cup in 1966 wearing red shirts. Why a reminder? The night before England played Bulgaria in a qualifying match for the EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. The shirt was of a blue colour with the shorts in a light blue while the socks were blue like the shirts.

Apparently it was a good England performance, unlike the one on Tuesday against Wales at Wembley. The author of the piece thought it necessary however, to remind his readers of English triumphs in red in 1966, expressing his dislike of the blue dress. The devil in the blue dress on this night was Wayne Rooney, who scored twice in a 3-0 win. Ironically, what the writer has missed to point out was that Bulgaria are managed by Lothar Matthäus, the German record international player who has become a journeyman as a manager. Nonetheless, England are on the brink of qualification for a tournament and did so in a plucky manner but they’re nearly there, however, the Sun thought it necessary to point out that the shirts England wore in triumph were not blue; thus once more proving that the English football public still harks back to the days of an alleged golden age of English football.

More worrying though was what Jeremy Clarkson had to say. A page full of nonsense ranging from sexism to an overstated Englishness that borders on xenophobia. He asked why any one should bother to learn other languages as most people today would understand English to a certain degree anyway. That is true, yet he is so wrong by dismissing other languages and any effort to learn a different language.

It doesn’t stop here. John Cleese was cited as saying that London is no longer an English city, thus becoming the British counterpart of Thilo Sarrazin, who declared that Germany does away with itself in 2009. Cleese, however was quoted: ‘when the parent culture kind of dissipates, you’re left thinking, “What’s going on”?’

We’re left with a picture of fear that has crept into the English psyche; a picture of xenophobia to reaffirm English identity by declaring London has lost its English heritage and a reminder of English football’s greatest and only triumph in red shirts in 1966, thus diminishing the efforts of this year achieved by England simply by expressing a dislike for the colour of the England shirt.

The Guardian (September 2) published a piece by one of their key writers,, Simon Jenkins, who presented some thoughts on protecting British heritage. His focus were the mining towns of Wales, where instead of conserving those towns and villages worth protecting, are being destroyed or left to decay. In their stead there will be wind mills producing electric energy for the surrounding communities. We get the idea however, that Jenkins is not happy with either; protecting pit villages as a museum of British greatness and installing energy producing means of the 21 century on the hills. There was a time when Britain appeared to be stuck in the past and it was said, that every time Germany opened a factory, Britain opened a museum. One country conserving the status quo, the other looking towards the future. Not all of these pit villages can be turned into museums, otherwise the whole of Wales would be a museum soon but Jenkins is right to remind his readers that it is important to preserve the rich heritage of the Industrial Revolution and not to throw it all away.

Each paper in their own way describe how Britain is losing its identity. Either via boldly stating that London is no longer an English city or that parts of its industrial heritage are going to vanish. The latter certainly has a point as the balance between conservation and renovation appears to be dangerously biased towards the latter. Nonetheless, a very interesting read was provided by both papers, offering a range of points which have been mentioned here briefly.


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