Down to sports, empires are tribal

American World Cup viewers tuning in to watch their team face England on Saturday might be excused confusion about their adversary’s flag. Instead of the British Union Jack, English fans waved a red and white standard usually only glimpsed in movies where knights fight dragons, crusades, or Braveheart.

That’s the red cross of Saint George, dragon-slayer, minus the diagonal white-on-blue X of Scotland’s Saint Andrew and the red X of Ireland’s Saint Patrick. Where British dominion is concerned, natural resources and labor are commonwealth, assertion of athletic dominance is forever England.

But the England team crest, with the three lions passant-guardant, dates to lionhearted King Richard, the early realm’s warrior expansionist. Technically the heraldic cats are léopards, because the royal houses ruled in the language of the French, and these three show the empire’s spots: Team England’s badge invokes the era when “England” included the conquered Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

As far as world onlookers cared, the first round pairing of USA versus England was an intramural match among conspiratorial members of the Coalition of the Willing. At best one could only root for the good cop colonizer. Early enough in the game, a score fumbled past England’s goalie portended the Gods’ ambivalence over the outcome. Like Olympic teams, the FIFA contenders are groupings of soccer all-stars whose day jobs mean playing side by side, for either Man United or Real Madrid apparently. It’s hard to expect that team allegiances would defer to nationalism any more than to the federation’s television revenues. The achievement of a tie for match USA – England guaranteed to string along the barely interested American TV audience.

England, Scotland and Ireland were grandfathered into FIFA because, despite not being standalone sovereign nations, they originated the competition. Indeed Britain invented football, whose spread across the world is owed to European colonialism.

Sovereignty is no small distinction when it comes to legitimizing sports teams. Taiwan and Tibet are not recognized by China for example, as the Korean halves reject each other, as the US might object to Puerto Rican or Hawaiian bids for succession.

Today a pretense of sovereignty is enough to field a national soccer team. Take Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel, for example, and I needn’t stop there. By what standard are they independent entities versus US client states? They have their own flags, for all the US cares, and I daresay American pride would be sacrificed for the political gain of either of these puppets excelling their master in sport. A success in sporting circles would only bolster the facade of their indigenous national sovereignty.

Does it say something about the difference between contemporary empires and past, that the US doesn’t need to stamp the red, white and blue unto its colonial projects? Nor dominate them in the arena?

We can contrast America’s far-flung possessions and occupations with the British Commonwealth, whose flags closely mimicked mother Britain’s theme. But I’d like to clarify Ireland’s representation on the British flag. The cross of St. Patrick whose outline informs the Union Jack, represents Ireland before her independence. Still occupied Northern Ireland has a flag which duplicates England’s but for the addition of a loyalist co-opted red hand at its center.

While England holds fast to Scotland’s oil and Ireland’s loyalists, when it comes to sport, she wants all the credit.

2 thoughts on “Down to sports, empires are tribal

  1. More importantly, England wants all the money. It’s been a while since anybody tried to invade England the traditional way, by sea, and it’s handy for them to have Scotland on their north coast, Ireland off the West, and all the Scots and Irish and Welsh as potential conscripts for the maintenance of the “security” of the Imperial Homeland.

    The Romans refused to even try to conquer Ireland, said “there’s no gold, the weather is hideous and the natives are crazy” and called it Hibernia, which is Latin for “winterland”, and eventually gave up trying with Scotland as well.

    The saying “whatever happens, don’t let them give you to the women” was about Celtic women.

    There’s a line from a song “Auld Man fra’ Killieburn Brae” that’s apropos, “So it’s true that the women, are worse than the men,
    when they’re taken to Hell then sent back again”

    The conquered don’t always stay vanquished. Never do in fact.
    They held onto Ireland through 400 years of nonstop terrorist attacks on the Irish people and the use of Massive Brutality, didn’t work.

    I read one account that football originated from a game called “Kick the Dane’s skull” because there were apparently a few dead Vikings rotted away on a beach, in Wales. Guess the Welsh, also used by the English as a shield from sea-borne invasion, repulsed the invasion but there weren’t enough able bodied survivors to bury the dead Vikings. Some victory… For the English.

    Lovely sport, that. Not far removed from the War which spawned the game. Now the South African Police have taken control of security at the World Cup games. Seems the mercenary Security company wasn’t able to keep down the traditional post game, pre-and-mid game as well, rioting.

    It probably wouldn’t have helped much that the security Mercenaries have a history of being controlled and largely staffed by Pro-Apartheid “activists”. Like the ones who enforced Apartheid against the more native inhabitants of South Africa and Zimbabwe. Thus they would have some political gain from a lot of unrest and violence at the games. Another sweet bunch of fellows.

    The casualty count from “football hooligans” is a whole lot like the casualty count from an Imperial Frontier War. The comparisons just keep a-comin’.

    Sorry, Tony, I tried, really I did, but I just can’t seem to find a way to blame that on Obama.

  2. At least you tried, Jonah. …lol… And at least you left out saying anything foul against your Queen lady, Sarah Palin! I’m impressed at the progress you are now making! Next we know, you’ll be one of us Left Tea Baggers… and a totalitarian.

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