The misery of an England fan in the US

July 1, 2014

It’s a rare occasion when the US football team advance further than England at the World Cup, so the pain is keenly felt by a British transplant in Virginia.

After five years of living in America, I’d like to think I’ve assimilated into the local culture.

I ask cab drivers to pop the trunk. I visit the dentist every three months. I even high-fived a colleague in the office last week, without irony.

But as this year’s World Cup approached, I had an overwhelming desire to watch our opening game against Italy with other English people.

People who understood the 48 years of hurt – the Hand of God, the Waddle penalty, the Beckham sending-off, the Ronaldinho free kick, the Ronaldo wink, the Lampard ghost goal… the pain, the pain!

I once again arranged a big English gathering at the Timberwood Grill with a group of 50 or so expats.

They put on a great English style food menu including a Full English Breakfast, Bangers and mash and real fish and chips.

Frankly, we didn’t need food. We didn’t even need chairs. All we needed was a supply of beer, a working television and three points.

Sure enough, 50 plus English friends gathered in a room that night to experience, in the company of our fellow countrymen, a familiar pattern of blind optimism, depressing familiarity and even more blind optimism. And we did it again, five days later.

The morning after England lost to Uruguay, I sat my two-year-old down for a man-to-man chat about meeting with triumph and disaster, and how to treat those impostors just the same, even though as an England fan he was unlikely ever to meet with the former.

Then I jumped in the car and whizzed him down to the Timberwood to watch the Italy-Costa Rica game, talking up our chances by stretching Kipling’s poem to credibility-defying extremes (“If Italy beat Costa Rica… If England win our last game 4-0… If…”).

Meanwhile, the rest of the country was engaging with the World Cup like never before.

There is always interest, of course, thanks to the bubble of passionate (mainly Hispanic) soccer fans. Most major cities outdoor venues turn into Hackney Marshes every weekend.

And yet, and yet… There’s something happening outside that bubble, too. Last Sunday, America was heaving with flag-waving USA fans for the Portugal game.

Bars have been advertising the games “with sound”, as if suddenly realising what they’ve been missing all these years. And people at work have started talking to me about football.

American people.

How infuriating that football – our football – has finally become a talking point at precisely the moment the USA has progressed further than England on the world’s biggest stage.

All I can do is reluctantly accept my friends’ condolences (“Sorry for your loss”) and quickly change the subject by saying what a great World Cup it’s been, and soccer’s been the winner, and please leave me alone, and take off that ridiculous bandana will you?

Costa Rica’s progression to the very last stages of the World Cup would be wonderfully romantic. The USA’s would be deeply troublesome. They don’t deserve it, not for at least another 48 years. They haven’t suffered enough.

So if the USA team reaches the quarter-final, I’ll start reining in my enthusiasm; the semi-final, I’ll support the other team; the final, I’ll be physically sick. If they win the World Cup, I shall renounce my green card and leave the country.

The USA won’t win the World Cup, of course. But the moment they’re knocked out, you can bet my American friends will instantly, effortlessly, shift their focus to baseball.

That’s the difference between us and them. We’re always dwelling on our last defeat. They’re always looking for their next win (and they usually find it, too).

Meanwhile, I’m still upset about England losing on penalties to Argentina 16 summers ago.

Which reminds me, I must cancel the food I’ve reserved for England’s semi-final against Argentina on 9 July.

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World Cup 2014

Group A

Date/TimeHome TeamScoreAway Team
Thu - Jun 12
4:00 pmBrazil3 - 1Croatia
Fri - Jun 13
12:00 pmMexico1 - 0Cameroon
Tue - Jun 17
3:00 pmBrazil0 - 0Mexico
Wed - Jun 18
6:00 pmCameroon0 - 4Croatia
Mon - Jun 23
4:00 pmCameroon1 - 4Brazil
4:00 pmCroatia1 - 3Mexico

Group B

Date/TimeHome TeamScoreAway Team
Fri - Jun 13
3:00 pmSpain1 - 5Netherlands
6:00 pmChile3 - 1Australia
Wed - Jun 18
3:00 pmSpain0 - 2Chile
12:00 pmAustralia2 - 3Netherlands
Mon - Jun 23
12:00 pmAustralia0 - 3Spain
12:00 pmNetherlands2 - 0Chile

Group C

3Ivory Coast312045-13
Date/TimeHome TeamScoreAway Team
Sat - Jun 14
12:00 pmColombia3 - 0Greece
Sun - Jun 15
9:00 pmIvory Coast2 - 1Japan
Thu - Jun 19
12:00 pmColombia2 - 1Ivory Coast
6:00 pmJapan0 - 0Greece
Tue - Jun 24
4:00 pmJapan1 - 4Colombia
4:00 pmGreece2 - 1Ivory Coast

Group D

1Costa Rica32014137
Date/TimeHome TeamScoreAway Team
Sat - Jun 14
3:00 pmUruguay1 - 3Costa Rica
6:00 pmEngland1 - 2Italy
Thu - Jun 19
3:00 pmUruguay2 - 1England
Fri - Jun 20
12:00 pmItaly0 - 1Costa Rica
Tue - Jun 24
12:00 pmItaly0 - 1Uruguay
12:00 pmCosta Rica0 - 0England

Group E

Date/TimeHome TeamScoreAway Team
Sun - Jun 15
12:00 pmSwitzerland2 - 1Ecuador
3:00 pmFrance3 - 0Honduras
Fri - Jun 20
3:00 pmSwitzerland2 - 5France
6:00 pmHonduras1 - 2Ecuador
Wed - Jun 25
4:00 pmHonduras0 - 3Switzerland
4:00 pmEcuador0 - 0France

Group F

3Bosnia and Herzegovina31204403
Date/TimeHome TeamScoreAway Team
Sun - Jun 15
6:00 pmArgentina2 - 1Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mon - Jun 16
3:00 pmIran0 - 0Nigeria
Sat - Jun 21
12:00 pmArgentina1 - 0Iran
6:00 pmNigeria1 - 0Bosnia and Herzegovina
Wed - Jun 25
12:00 pmNigeria2 - 3Argentina
12:00 pmBosnia and Herzegovina3 - 1Iran

Group G

2United States31114404