Opinion

Journalist’s question to Schmeichel show why it’s hard for Welsh fans to support England

07 Jul 2021 4 minutes Read
The Red Wall (left), and Kasper Schmeichel (right). Picture by ITV.

Gareth Ceidiog Hughes

Even when you play international football for another country, your success is ultimately all about England.

That was the assumption behind the peculiar, yet entirely typical question from an English journalist to the Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The expression on the international footballer’s face as he answered the manifestation of extraordinary solipsism and entitlement ahead of the Euro 2020 clash between Denmark and England, was a mixture of amusement and incredulity.

He was asked what it would “mean” to the Danish team to “stop it from coming home?”

Schmeichel asked: “Has it ever been home? I don’t know, have you ever won it?”

England, although it has won the World Cup once (one less than Uruguay), unlike Denmark, hasn’t actually ever won the European Championship.

Schmeichel then went on to explain: “To be honest, I haven’t given any thought to what it would mean to stop England more than what it would do for Denmark.

“It’s what it would do for our country back home. The joy it would bring to a country of only five-and-a-half million to be able to do something like that, or compete with the nations we’re competing with.

“So, yeah, not really a lot of thought to England’s feelings in this.”

Basic stuff

This is basic stuff. He shouldn’t really have to explain that he’s thinking about what a win would mean for his own country, not England. It should be patently obvious.

Yet he does, because large sections of the rather excitable English commentariat have not quite grasped that it isn’t always all about them.

This is something Welsh fans find themselves in the somewhat exasperating position of having to explain rather often, which is why so many reacted to Schmeichel’s comments undisguised glee. What he had to deal with is even more acute for us. This type of thing happens with nauseating regularity. It is pervasive.

Pretty much every time an international football tournament comes around, a weird and counterproductive pressure campaign begins to try to press-gang Wales supporters into backing the Three Lions.

Now, this may be heretical to say in some quarters, but there are some attractive reasons for backing the current England squad.

I happen to like the team’s manager Gareth Southgate. He is intelligent, articulate, and seems like a thoroughly decent human being.

I happen to quite like his squad, who seem to embody the best of what it means to be English. They are the antithesis of the kind of reactionary, jingoistic, festival of hooliganism that is often associated with English football at international tournaments.

However 

However, nothing makes me less likely to support England than being told that I as a Welshman am obligated to support them. It puts off people who might otherwise be tempted to do so.

But even without that, there is no obligation for anyone Welsh to support England anyway.

Wales is a nation in its own right – yet it is often treated as a mere adjunct to England. The calls for Welsh fans to back England feel very much like an expression of this asymmetrical and toxic dynamic.

Our national identity is consistently undermined by a particular incarnation of Britishness which is really just an extension of Englishness. We are asked to embrace that at the expense of our own Welshness, and then told that we are “petty” if we do not.

In reality, we are merely rejecting the assumption that our identity belongs to another country and not to our own. We are merely stating that we exist in our own right. We are explaining that our Welshness is just as valid as any other identity – even Englishness.

Were this dynamic not to exist and were more of the English media to conduct itself with a modicum of humility, it would be much easier for this particular Welshman to support England.

But even if it didn’t, it doesn’t mean that I necessarily would, because like Kasper Schmeichel, I come from a different country.

It just so happens that my country is called Wales.

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Quornby
Quornby
2 months ago

Very well put. I find it difficult to react to this subject without recourse to a bucket of Anglo-Saxon.

Jack
Jack
2 months ago

Let’s be honest the journalist only asked this because he knew he’d get a reaction. And I thought Kasper’s response was quite witty.

It certainly makes a change from:
“How are you feeling ahead of the game?” ” Yeah very good…” that seems to be most sport press conferences nowadays.
The fact that we’re even discussing it means it grabbed our attention.

Chris
Chris
2 months ago

It’s a shame. The current English team deserve so much more than the current English media.
Either way, I’m not for or against England in this. Simply don’t care either way.
If anything I am inclined to get a quick burst of enjoyment whenever the hubris of the anglo-press gets popped again and again.

Bruce
Bruce
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris

I tend to agree, the current English manager and squad seem decent enough unlike many of the English fans and the English media. Plus they’ve manage to p**s off Priti Patel which is always a good thing.

However, I won’t be supporting them simply because it isn’t my country. At one point I wouldn’t have cared either way if they won or lost but after the way English fans treated a German girl I hope they lose simply to punish the mindless thugs who think it’s funny to be cruel to a child.

Glen
Glen
2 months ago

I remember during a friendly between England and Brazil some years ago, the commentator told us “it’s the dream of every Brazilian boy to play England at Wembley”.
Like there was no higher honour in the game.

Jack
Jack
2 months ago
Reply to  Glen

In fairness it was Pele himself who called Wembley ‘the cathedral of football, the capital of football and the heart of football’, so some Brazilians do consider it an honour.

Chris
Chris
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack

I heard he said that everywhere he played. To ingratiate himself with the locals

Eifion
Eifion
2 months ago

It doesn’t reflect well that your stories are all linked to England. A confident, forwarding looking nation wouldnt be so obsessed, its almost as you’re looking for approval from them.
Time to move on guys, let make Wales and the world, not England and Wales….

j humphrys
j humphrys
2 months ago
Reply to  Eifion

We know where we stand. Move on, yes.

wncomunco
wncomunco
2 months ago

Great win for England. I

wncomunco
wncomunco
2 months ago
Reply to  wncomunco

Good luck to England in the final. Pob lwc o Gymru.

Chris
Chris
2 months ago
Reply to  wncomunco

Previously I was happy to watch as a neutral and felt the English team were decent people who just deserved better fans. BUT
1. English fans booed the anthem
2. Raheem Sterling dived for the “winning” penalty in a display so cynical English fans must now FOREVER shut up whining about Maradonna
3. During the penalty “someone” shone a laser in Schmeichel’s eyes.

A cynical bunch of cheaters, followed by the most despicable fans. I hope now that Italy rinse them.

Chris
Chris
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Oh and 2 balls on the field at one point when Denmark were attacking?
And SO MANY home matches.
This is not a sport. It’s a fix

Alan Reilly
Alan Reilly
2 months ago

Funny thing is confusing them with my position that I want the rugby league team to do well but not the soccer or union ones.

“Do you want England to win?”

“No”.

“So you hate England”.

“No, once Wales and Ireland are gone, I want the English rugby league team to do well”.

“You just said you don’t want England to win”.

“No, I don’t want the English soccer/union team to win. I want the rugby league team to do well”.

“Why?”.

“Because rugby league people are generally a different breed. Now jog on”.

Cymro ar wasgar
Cymro ar wasgar
2 months ago

As a Welshman I will always support Wales. I can even support British teams such as the Lions or the Olympic team but I have never nor will I ever support an English team. I will never boo them nor show disrespect in any way. I will gladly stand shoulder to shoulder with English supporters at a rugby match but my nstional identity as a welshman and my fierce pride in our continued survival will not allow me to ever be an England/English supporter.

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