Comment: written by Marcus Lawrence.
The UEFA European Championships are currently underway in France, but the event has been overshadowed by the violence erupting around it – similar to that of the Brexit movement.
Violence at the Euro’s has extended to large-scale brawls in the streets of various French cities; including isolated attacks on individuals, and the attack upon the English fans at the game against Russia in Marseille.
The blame for the violence is believed to lie with fans of many nations, most predominantly of England, Russia, and France, but the timing of the chaos at a European tournament could not be more poignant.
Brexit: a vote of nationalism
After shambolic campaigning on both sides, the United Kingdom’s EU Referendum has generated a leave result. The implications of the electorate’s decision, through a majority of 51.9%, are extensive.
However, the overarching Leave narrative of “retaking Britain” from the bureaucrats in Brussels and reclaiming the country’s former glories aligns closely with the actions of English fans in France this summer. In this, the violence now retrospectively appears to be the result of a similar nationalistic arrogance.
The leave campaign was transparent in its admission that there is no concrete economic plan for a post-Brexit Britain. UKIP stated that Britain needs a plan; there is no means to predict the true ramifications of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
Early responses to leaving have been nothing short of catastrophic, with the pound’s worth depreciating faster than any currency ever has before. The “experts” which Michael Gove was keen to defame appear to have had a great deal of accuracy in their predictions, with the depreciation of the pound perhaps signalling the inevitability of recession – following withdrawal from the European single market.
However, evidently Gove was right to state that the British public are indeed tired of experts and their supposed “fear-mongering”, hence the result of the referendum. If people weren’t voting with the warnings of economic professionals in mind, it certainly seems as though something else was driving their hand to the baseless leave vote. Nationalism, it seems, has played a significant role.
Nationalism reflected in the Euros
This nationalism is reflected in the trouble that English fans have been involved in this summer. As the largest country of the United Kingdom and the seat of the highest order of government, England is often deemed to be the country of the four who opposes the secession of the others – among Ireland, Wales and Scotland. In this there is an entirely unfair tendency to generalise England with Great Britain at large, and the English in particular appear to perpetuate this nonsense in terms of nationalist feeling.
“Ten German Bombers” and “ISIS, Where Are You?” are frequently sung by English fans, and such provocative songs voiced in the masculine, tribal fashion of the football chant ring deeper than drunken fraternity and the search for a foreigner to punch.
Social media posts, and interviews with voters in the street by the BBC and ITV have included particularly nauseating comments such as, to paraphrase, “The Remain campaigners seem to forget we did all right before joining the EU. We won two World Wars for starters!” and this bizarrely misinformed rhetoric apparently permeates throughout English culture.
“Ten German Bombers” directly references the Second World War, a conflict which ended seventy-one years ago during the twilight period of the British Empire, and the significance of singing such a song is that it emblemises an imperialistic arrogance enduring from a time long past.
There is an on-going unwillingness to accept the ‘new’ order, or to understand the reasons for Britain’s depreciation on the global stage as colonialism and the Empire retired to history where they most certainly belong.
The EU, the Leave campaign urged voters to believe, is largely to blame for Britain being anything less than ‘Great’. “Take back control”, we were commanded, and the electorate has obliged. There were, of course, the false claims that the illusory “£350,000,000” paid each week to the EU for membership would be redirected to the underfunded NHS but, alongside this, nationalism was certainly the order of the day.
The antagonism of English fans in France accentuates the notion that they hold the United Kingdom in an esteem no longer granted by our continental contemporaries.
The truest aims of team sport are the unity of teammates, the respect of opponents, and the ultimate camaraderie which mutual love of a game can inspire. On the international stage nationalistic tendencies are compounded by the passion of sport, and in football we have a game whose passionate fans have been the subject of scrutiny for time immemorial.