Last weekend I watched some good tennis from some young British players. True they were hammered by the best male tennis player in the world, one of the fastest servers in the world, and one of the all-time great doubles players. But the Australian tennis team would have fancied their chances against any comers on a surface of their own choosing, in front of a partisan crowd.
An Australian paraded a banner which listed a series of sporting indignities heaped upon the British in the previous year: massacres in the cricket, rugby league etc. But neither football (soccer), nor rugby union were mentioned. Patrick Crozier, writes about the novel indignity of being beaten by the Australian soccer team: nicknamed the “Socceroos”, so what they call the England team I shudder to even think.
However, Patrick, like many British people goes from one extreme to the other. Just because the English invented soccer over one hundred and forty years ago, there is supposed to be something shameful about defeat to a newcomer. The same attitude exists in all areas of British endeavour since the mid-19th century. First it was an inferiority complex with Germany and the USA, later with Japan, then Germany and “Europe”. In most cases whether it is the navy, the health system, schools, food, beer, state television, industry, Britain is always assumed either to be “the finest in the world” or it ought to be.
If there were anything remotely approximating the amount of effort put into achieving these ideals as there is spent on moaning about failure, perhaps these delusions would at least be productive. Instead we get whingeing succeded by overbearing gloating, then back again. Little wonder that for any foreigner that regularly competes against the English, there is great pleasure in victory.
But this time things have got truly out of hand. The England rugby union team has been beating the supposedly superior New Zealand, South Africa and Australia teams for several years. The latest round of matches was a professional execution of southern hemisphere pride. So instead of bleating about a soccer match, English sports fans would do better to find out what the rugby team is doing right. England deserve to be favourites to win the rugby world cup this year.
Sadly [not!], the English rugby team faces a truly superior force tomorrow at Twickenham: the French national side, who I have no doubt, will rub snotty English noses into the cold Middlesex mud. I shall of course observe this with my usual detachment… and resist wrentching my phone and pestering every English rugby fan I know for at least two minutes.
Then you’ll have something to moan about!