Rooting for ‘my team’: Why I'll always support England in Fifa World Cup

Through the lens, lightly


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Thu 15 Dec 2022, 9:45 PM

No one can ever explain to me what an ‘offside’ is. Maybe it’s because, one, it (the idea) sounds silly, way too silly for me to try and understand its alleged nuance; and two, I am fan of the England football team, not the game per se. The latter, many point out, is an exercise in futility since England hasn’t won anything of consequence in a really, really, really long time (they won the World Cup in 1966, and I don’t think they’ve ever won the Euro Cup).

I love England for Shakespeare, Tennyson, Julie Christie, the Bee Gees (never the Beatles), Laurence Olivier, Ricky Gervais, Princess Diana, Stephen Hawking, Ben Whishaw — the list goes on interminably. But I also love England for Gary Linekar, and most especially David Beckham (he was the reason I started following the Premier League).

So, every time, something big happens in the world of football, I turn into an English fangirl. During the last World Cup, I booked myself into the movie theatre at Burjuman to watch England play a match on big screen. They won, even though I was one of three people in the hall, and the other two appeared to be supporting the other side (or they were perhaps taking a nap). Everyone thought I was crazy for doing that, but it remains a cherished memory and the usher walked up to me to say, “Congratulations madam!” when I jumped with joy over a goal netted by my team.

Last Saturday, while Harry Kane was making a mess of the second penalty (in the quarter-final fixture against France), I was doing what I normally do when I watch a very scary movie: covering my eyes and switching off the audio. That way, in the off-chance (not offside), I wouldn’t have to witness — and hear — the horror… it would have been unbearable. When I opened my eyes, Kane was looking crestfallen, and the French players appeared to be celebrating. Kane missed the penalty. England lost. And they went out of the World Cup. Inexplicably. Like an offside.

But my World Cup run is not over. I have a new love in my life: Team Morocco. As I write this, we don’t know whether or not Morocco will make it to the finals (to be played this Sunday), but by the time this column appears in print, we will. Of course, it’s not the same kind of unconditional love that I harbour for England, but it’s love alright.

Now, let’s get down to nitty-gritties. The men in my family are a strange lot. Both my father and my brother are not following the World Cup; my brother claims he has too much work, and my father claims he’s too busy — and yet, he also claims, in the same breath, that he’s been following football for yonks, and that he’s met Pele in person (which I think is a white lie). “Oh, right, Fifa is ongoing,” my brother WhatsApped tamely when we were discussing what time we should have our weekly ‘family conference call’ (sometime in the evening), and I was insisting I wasn’t going to give up on watching the matches just to listen to who’s been eating what for breakfast, lunch and dinner through the week (yes, that’s how boring our banters tend to be).

My 14-year-old niece, God bless her, however, is more on the ball with the World Cup. She’s supporting Argentina. “Because all the girls in my class are supporting Argentina, they were weeping in school the day after Argentina lost to Saudi Arabia… Who are you supporting?” she asked (this was before England got knocked out).

“England?” I responded airily. “That’s my team.”

“WHY?” she wanted to know.

“Long story,” I said. “Will tell you one day.”

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