My thoughts on why the World Cup is not xenophobic caused a good debate, here and at Liberal Conspiracy. I think the public response to our national team’s dire performance yesterday backs up my view that football fans (even England fans) know all too well that “its only a game” and that xenophobia is rare, unwelcome and marginalised.
In particular, the consensus that Germany were by far the better team and deserved to win, despite Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal. The ignorant patriot would hold that this mistake by the referee cost England the game, but apart from our Italian manager Fabio Capello, no-one is advancing that argument. In fact, the effect of the denied goal has actually been to remind us of the 1966 goal-mouth incident, where Geoff Hirst was awarded a goal by the Azerbaijani (not Russian) linesman. The merest hint of a suggestion that maybe there is a possibility that perhaps Hirst’s ricochet did not actually entirely cross the line used to be one of our nation’s most cherished shibboleths. Yet after the game, the idea that Lampard’s bad luck was karmic payback for Hirst’s good fortune is common currency: Richard Williams analysis in The Guardian takes this line, and echos may of the tweets I read yesterday evening. This is not the attitude of a xenophobic nation. Rather, it is an aquiesence to Law 5 of the game that says that the referee’s decision is final, even if it is wrong. A commitment to the Rule of Law that would make any civil libertarian proud.