Thursday, 17 October 2013

Revisiting an all-time left-wing comedy classic: Laurie Penny on the 2010 World Cup

I try to avoid watching England internationals these days. It isn’t good for a chap of my advanced years to spend 90 minutes screaming at players who, despite being paid upward of £5m a year, seem incapable of passing the ball to another member of their own team despite the fact that they’ve got ten other players to choose from. But I allowed myself to get caught up in Tuesday’s gut-roiling hysteria. I couldn’t face watching the whole match, of course, preferring instead to switch over to it every ten minutes or so, expecting to see 0:1 or 0:2 in the top left-hand corner of the screen, and popping out in between to check the score on the BBC website.

The last time I switched over was three minutes from the end, just in time to see Gerard score that superb second goal – a display of sheer will-power that lifted one’s heart. (I felt a bit guilty, because a few minutes before I’d been calling him a useless, geriatric, scouse prat – I’d better not tell you what I called Lampard, as it probably constitutes an imprisonable offence.) I’ll admit it – my eyes grew moist, especially when I saw dear old Woy Hodgson celebrating: he does seem a very nice chap, and, no matter how dreary England’s displays have been in qualifying (okay, I’ll admit it – I watch the highlights) the team members no longer seem to actually hate each other or play as if they’ve paid an enormous collective bribe by an Asian betting syndicate to throw the match in as obvious a fashion as possible.

The other touching aspect of the victory was the deranged excitement of the England supporters in the stadium, who’d just been bawling out “God Save The Queen”. You’d have to be a dreadful curmudgeon, a howling snob, or a sour-faced left-winger to begrudge them their joy, especially after the scarring experience of the Golden Generation’s shamefully gutless performance in South Africa. But we’ve had the 2012 Olympics since then, as well as Andy Murray’s triumph at Wimbledon (he picked up his OBE today – another teary moment for me), and Sir Ben Ainslie winning the Americas Cup for the USA a few weeks ago. The least England could expect of their football team in their biggest match since the awfulness of that defeat to Germany was pluck – and pluck they certainly gave us.

These days, I avoid left-wing newspapers and blogs like the plague, on the basis that, as I’m now 60, I’ve really heard enough bullshit to last whatever span is left to me. But an hour ago I fell for a tweet by Chris Deerin linking to what he claimed was a parody of a Laurie Penny column by Craig Brown. Only it turned out to be an actual column by the privately-educated journalistic successor to Polly Toynbee (and, of course, Deidre Spart), written in 2010, in the lead-up to the last World Cup. It is a classic – utterly beyond parody. You can read the whole thing here (it's a useful reminder of just how deranged and malignant leftists can be), but here are a few lowlights to be getting on with:
Football is commodified nationalism that excludes more than half the population. (Actually, I’m pretty sure women are now allowed to play the sport and - if they promise to behave - attend matches.)
The fact remains, however, that there are more pressing things to worry about over the soccer season than the state of Frank Lampard's admittedly shapely calves. This country is in crisis. Young people are in crisis, poor people are in crisis, unemployment stands at 2.5 million, the labour movement is still leaderless and directionless, and there's a brutal train of Tory public-service cuts coming over the hill. (Yeah, things were really bad in 2010, because Labour had been in power for 13 years.)
Liberal alarm bells can't help but start ringing when a bunch of overpaid PE teachers get together to orchestrate a month of corporate-sponsored quasi-xenophobia… (Well, those alarm bells wouldn’t start ringing if liberals weren't so cosmically silly.)
…football is no longer the people's sport. Just look at the brutal contempt that the police reserve for fans, or count the number of working-class Britons who can afford to attend home matches, much less the festivities in South Africa. Then there's the uncomfortable fact that the World Cup is only and always about men. (Uncomfortable for who, exactly?)
This cheery commoditised nationalism runs unnervingly close to the uglier face of engineered "English pride"… Of course, not everyone who displays an England flag is a fascist, but a few of the flags in circulation will undoubtedly be reused at the upcoming EDL rally in east London, which plans to process through the same streets where Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts marched in 1936. (No, you lost me there, love.)
The tacky, tribalistic, red-and-white bandage of cheesy national sentiment is already stifling the healing power of political expediency. And as the people gear up to root for EnglandTM, the left's best chance to reorganise and re-energise is deflating like a football, smashed against a wall by idiot children. (Sorry, how did the idiot children get in?)
At one point there's a surreal reference to a lesbian South African player being raped (possibly by Mosley's blackshirts - or idiot children - who knows?). And she uses the word "bricolage", thus proving how useful an expensive private education can be.

I'm guessing young Laurie won’t be sitting between Roy Keane and Jamie Redknapp on Adrian Chiles’s ITV World Cup panel. Pity, because that's something I'd pay to see.

Anyway, hat-tip to Chris Deerin for this wonderful blast from the Marxist past. It’s good to laugh.

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