Sporting loyalties

Whenever people ask me where I come from, I say England. This is of course not strictly true, but the truth would take far too long, and when people ask you where you’re from, as is the case when they ask you how you are, they don’t really want to know the truth, they just want to have enough information to put you in a certain compartment in their brain. And I am quite happy to fit into their ‘London’ compartment, as London is my spiritual home.

I am biologically Swedish/Italian. When I was two my mother married an Englishman, and from then on I was brought up between England and Sweden. Italy and my Italian family only came in later on in my life when my mother and I ran away to Italy in her purple Ford Cortina. I was 12 at the time. If you’re interested in this, the whole saga is told in my book Ciao Bella, which is being re-released this summer.

But the point of this blog is not to sell books. At least not just to sell books. Ten years ago, we (my English husband and first-born daughter) moved from England to France. Two of my children were born there. And four years ago we moved to Abu Dhabi. So there is a bit of a mix going on.

Last night I watched England play Sweden in the Euro 2012 competition. As a child I was rather generous with my sporting loyalties. I could just as easily be singing Heja Svergie, as Forza Italia or even Allez les bleus. This has now changed. There is only one national team for me: England. I remember the words of the commentator: “If Waddle misses this, England are out of the world cup” as if they were yesterday. They were in fact in 1990. I spent most of my honeymoon in 1998 watching football, we raced back from the ferry from two weeks in Sweden in time to see Beckham get a red card.

So to me it was not odd last night to be yelling, praying, suffering for a side that really is not mine on the face of it. I am no more English than a Swedish striker. But I can’t help it. If (when?) we get knocked out of course, it will be fair game. But you know what? I think I might actually support Spain. Because that’s where Torres is, and we all know who he plays for? You don’t? Well, it is a London team called CHELSEA. So sporting loyalties don’t just come with your biological roots, they are obviously nurtured over years of supporting a team, or watching a team. My children of course are far less complicated, they have much more English influence, as well as English blood, although Bea and Leo, who are born in France do have some loyalty to Les Bleus. But whatever else, they support Chelsea, and there are no divided loyalties there whatsoever. Viva Espana!

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2012

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