I was woken by my cat Portnoy at sparrow’s fart for his usual breakfast of Friskies and a stroll around his domain, after which he would retire to bed for the duration. Stumbling around in the pre-dawn cold and dark, it entered my head that I might switch on the tele and see what was happening in the World Cup.
I arrived just as the nerve-wracking penalty shootout between England and Colombia was about to begin. When Jordan Henderson missed the Pommies’ third shot it looked like curtains for the men in red. As fate would have it, however, the Colombians botched their last two kicks, England converted one of theirs and Gareth Southgate’s side was through to the quarter-finals.
What I realized, yet again, was not just that the penalty shootout is the crookest way for any game of football to be decided, but also that I was terribly disappointed to see Colombia bow out. Or, to be perfectly honest, I was pissed off that the Poms won. For the truth is, I barrack for whoever is playing England.
Joy at stumble
I don’t think I could properly explain why, but I expect that I am not alone in my antipodean delight at seeing Old Blighty stumble and fall in any contest (I am similarly unable to explain my sentimental attachment to Scotland). Like so many Australians, I have lived and worked in London and had the time of my life in that great city – to the extent that I still keenly follow the fortunes of QPR in whatever division they are playing.
But when the Land of Hope and Glory crew take to the field, whenever and wherever, I instinctively throw in my lot with their opponents.
My antipathy towards the sporting Poms was most acutely felt on a steamy night in Brisbane. I’d been to a limited overs game of cricket at the Gabba in which England got up to beat the home side (notwithstanding a ton by R. S. Ponting). Afterwards, in a pub nearby, downing a few conciliatory beers with my mate, I found it galling to the nth degree when a rowdy group of travelling supporters started singing their national anthem, at max vol. “Send her victorious!” they bellowed, “happy and glorious … long to-o reign over YOU! God save the Queen!” We drained our pots and skulked out.
“I love her till I die!”
To quote an ancient aphorism, I am a well-balanced man, with a chip on each shoulder. Being lorded over, patronized or generally looked down upon doesn’t sit well among Aussies of a Republican bent, particularly those of us old enough to remember Bob Menzies and his spew-making “I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die,” delivered to an embarrassed young Queen Elizabeth.
So, the delicious schadenfreude that I could almost taste last week had denied me when England got out of jail against Colombia.
Since then, the situation has become critical. I have been grievously let down by Sweden and now only Croatia stands between England and a spot in the Final.
I’m sure Gareth Southgate, England’s manager, is a lovely bloke, and I have nothing at all against his captain, Harry Kane … but on Friday morning Portnoy and I will be death-riding the Three Lions like never before!