Fuelled with lager and armed with a vuvuzela, the hippo will be cheering England on in their world cup campaign until they loose and join France and Italy on the long journey back to Europe steerage class. Supporting a national football team has to be done but, as Dr Johnson observed, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
It would be easy to support England if they were any good. Sadly, shoddy performances against the likes of Algeria, Slovenia and the USA indicate that the pampered millionaires are paper tigers and not the lions depicted on their shirts. World champions, defending a slender one goal lead, do not pass back to the keeper or hold the ball at the corner flag with 20 minutes to go. Our faith has to be blind and we will continue to swelter inside our cars unable to open the windows for fear of loosing our cross of St George flags.
The tabloid press have predictably got themselves into something of a tizzy and have confused a game of football with rampant jingoism. Hacks and sub-editors born long after the summer of 66 wax lyrical over Bobby Moore, Nobby Stiles and the Charlton brothers and now seem obsessed with the second world war. Television coverage has been equally bellicose. After Germany thrashed Australia 4-0 in their opening game, the ITV commentator declared: “Danger, the Germans are at it again” and the BBC have given us Brian Blessed screaming the once more unto the breach speech from Henry V which concluded with “Cry God for Fabio, England and St George”.
If England should progress beyond the last 16, headline writers have a treasure trove of history to plunder regarding conflict with the opposition. There is the British involvement in the Uruguayan Civil War between 1839 and 1851, the War of Jenkins` Ear against the Spanish, and the unforgetable tea party at Boston harbour. There is the fourth Anglo-Dutch War of 1780 and the first Carlist War of 1833 against the Portugese. Britain supported the French against Mexico in the Franco-Mexican War of 1861 and conquered Ghana in 1896. It might be best to leave our past encounters with Japan, Germany, Korea and Argentina unmentioned.
So who is left? Well, we have yet to engage Paraguay and Chile in armed conflict and Slovakia has only existed as an independent state for 17 years so it is too early for handbags in the penalty box. That leaves Brazil. On hearing that two Brazilian peace-keepers had been killed in Iraq, former US president George W Bush is alledged to have asked if a Brazilian was more or less than a gazillian. If our brave lads come up against the boys from Rio, expect this sort of stuff from the tabloids as well as references to the styling of pubic hair.
Once defeated, the drone of the vuvuzela will be drowned out by the drone of bitter journalists baying for the blood of Terry, Gerrard and Rooney and Capello will return to being an Italian. It is possible that some column inches will be given to the English cricket team who are doing rather well in the one-day series against the Austalians, but as armed forces day passes almost unnoticed, the national flag will no longer be flown on cars and we should ask ourselves what such blinkered nationalism is good for.
Absolutely nothing. Say it again.