News / Europe

England Football Team Enjoys Huge Support at World Cup

England one of the best supported football teams at World Cup in South Africa

Two young England football supporters, their faces painted with the St George's Cross, at a World Cup qualifying match in London in 2009
Two young England football supporters, their faces painted with the St George's Cross, at a World Cup qualifying match in London in 2009
Darren Taylor

The cavernous sports bar to the east of Johannesburg rings with the manic cries of England football fans, during a warm-up game for the World Cup.  “Viva John Terry!  Viva John Terry!” they scream and sing, under a giant TV screen, in honor of the center back of the Three Lions - England’s soccer team.   

Waitresses, faces shining with sweat, hurry to fulfill orders.  They stagger into the haze across a wet floor with trays laden with overflowing glasses.  England fans – no matter where they are in the world – have a reputation for loving beer just as much as they adore their national sport, football.   

They’re also known for their dry, caustic humor – evident in the many songs they sing during soccer matches.  In the Grand Slam Sports Café, when England’s opponents come close to scoring, the English fans turn to a group of cheering rival supporters and chant, “Where were you when they were .…?” using an expletive that renders their opponents speechless.  

Long historical links


There’s little doubt that England will be one of the best supported teams at the World Cup.  And that’s not only because 40,000 football lovers are expected to make the journey from the British Isles to South Africa.

England has some of the most passionate football fans in the world
England has some of the most passionate football fans in the world

Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the local World Cup organizing committee, has acknowledged that many South Africans would rather watch England than their own national team, Bafana Bafana.   

Blood links many South Africans to England.  Many are first or second generation South Africans, their parents or grandparents born in England.  They carry British passports.  They shun local football in favor of the English Premier League, which they watch fanatically.  

In fact, South Africa and England share a long history, tainted with the bitter taste of colonialism.  The English settled in South Africa in the 1800s, fighting various land wars with indigenous groups like the Zulu and Xhosa, and also against the Boers – descendents of Dutch immigrants who’d arrived on the southern tip of Africa in the 1600s.  After all the conflict, many English remained in South Africa.  Thousands more arrived in the 1950s and 1960s, when the South African government welcomed skilled foreigners to establish big industry in the country.  

History has thus conspired to ensure that hundreds of thousands of England supporters reside in the host country.

English will party … with or without match tickets


Jim and Ethel Sleith live in Johannesburg but are originally from the English city of Stoke.  

“We couldn’t get (tickets to) England games.  It’s impossible to get an England game.  That’s obviously the team I would have wanted to see (at the World Cup),” Jim tells VOA amid the chaos of the Grand Slam bar.  “(World football governing body) FIFA sold most of the tickets to fans in England, who are coming out here.  So us poor buggers living here in South Africa lost out.”

Some critics have labeled England a one-man team, with the nation's hopes resting upon the young shoulders of the Three Lion's top striker, Wayne Rooney
Some critics have labeled England a one-man team, with the nation's hopes resting upon the young shoulders of the Three Lion's top striker, Wayne Rooney

Fans Gareth Collins and Shane Wilson also failed to secure tickets for England’s opening game against the United States in Rustenburg on June 12th.  But, says Wilson, “We’ll be there anyway for the party.”

Collins adds, “We should win that one.”   Wilson grimaces at him, “Mate, I wouldn’t be so sure.  England have a history of starting badly at major tournaments.”  Collins glares at his friend and asks, “If you don’t believe in the team, what the hell are you going to Rustenburg for?”  Wilson replies, “For the same reasons I always go to footie games – to get hopelessly trashed and try to score with women.”

The pair’s South African friend, Tony de Kock, chips in, “Shaney, that’s a good idea.  England won’t score so you’ll have to.”

England must ‘play out of their skins’


However, England did extremely well during the World Cup qualification rounds, winning all but one of their 10 matches.  English fans are hoping this good form continues, to help their team to its first World Cup title since its only victory on home soil back in 1966.

England fans are hoping that their team's Italian manager, Fabio Capello, will inspire the Three Lions to their second World Cup triumph
England fans are hoping that their team's Italian manager, Fabio Capello, will inspire the Three Lions to their second World Cup triumph

But, for this to happen, England must emerge from a preliminary group including the U.S., Algeria and Slovenia.  Jim Sleith says, “England will sail it.”  Yet he doesn’t discount the danger posed to his team by the US.  

“I watched (the U.S.) play Brazil during last year’s Confederations Cup here, and the Americans really impressed me with their discipline … They only lost 3 – 2 in the final against the excellent Brazil.”      

Critics have labeled England a “one man show,” insisting that without star striker Wayne Rooney, who plays for powerhouse English club Manchester United, the Three Lions have little chance of progressing far in the competition.  Even some England supporters agree.  “No Rooney, no victory, hey,” comments Wilson.

England soccer supporters are never shy to sing their team's praises......And to insult others
England soccer supporters are never shy to sing their team's praises......And to insult others

Jim insists that England has got the potential to win the World Cup, “but it’ll need a lot of luck for them to beat some teams that are just more naturally gifted.”  He points to Argentina, which has arguably the world’s best player in Lionel Messi, and Brazil, which includes a pack of star players.  

“Brazil are definitely going to be there.  (And) the Germans!  If we play the Germans and it goes to penalties, we always lose!” Jim exclaims, adding, “England have got to play out of their skins, really, to win this (World Cup).”

As much as he “loves” England, Collins doesn’t see that happening.  He fears “lack of teamwork” will again stymie the English.  De Kock says England is “as usual, over-hyped … England’s chances are going to be the same as at every World Cup – they’ve got none! They’ve got lots of bark and no bite!”

Crime horror stories

But far removed from speculation about which team will take the trophy, news media in Britain have been filled with horror stories about crime in South Africa ahead of the football carnival.  The Sleiths – regular travelers to England – say these reports have “undoubtedly influenced” many English fans to abandon plans to attend the first World Cup on African soil.

The Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa,where England faces the United States in its opening World Cup game on June 12
The Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa,where England faces the United States in its opening World Cup game on June 12

Jim Sleith says he doesn’t blame them.  “The statistics don’t lie,” he quips.  Every year, there are 20,000 murders in South Africa.  That’s about 50 killings a day, ensuring that South Africa’s second only to Colombia in terms of an annual murder rate.  The host country’s also burdened by extremely high incidences of rape and violent robbery.   

“We do have a hell of a lot of crime; we have serious crime,” Jim tells VOA.  “We have (car) hijackings, so (visiting soccer fans) need to know exactly where they’re driving.  If they get lost, they could be in serious trouble … Anything can happen to them.”  His wife adds, “I was hijacked some years ago and it’s very scary.”

Wilson says he’s “praying” that his home country’s high crime rate doesn’t deter foreign fans – “especially the females” - from visiting South Africa.  He laughs, “We hope there are a lot of honeys from London, America – all those places – coming over!  We’ll be here for them, hey!  We’ll protect the ladies!”   

Winter shock and vuvuzela haters


Besides crime, Jim has other concerns for visiting England fans.  “Having spoken with English people on their way here, I’m worried some of them are going to arrive here in sunglasses, Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts expecting hot African weather, when in fact it will be in the middle of a freezing winter!”

Some England fans say they're coming to South Africa simply to party with fans from other nations, such as this attractive Brazilian supporter
Some England fans say they're coming to South Africa simply to party with fans from other nations, such as this attractive Brazilian supporter

Then again, he smiles, English supporters are “infamous” for their “barmy” behavior, which may “protect” them against the cold.  “We’ve seen football supporters in the UK (United Kingdom), in the middle of the UK winter, pulling their shirts off.  So, obviously it depends on how much alcohol they’re going to consume and that’s going to build up body heat, you know!”

His wife nods her head and jokes, “Some of them are going to be so drunk they’re not going to care if the match is being played at the South Pole!”  

The Sleiths are also worried about the well-being of the English fans ears.  Both “hate” vuvuzelas - the plastic, racket-making trumpets that South African supporters love to blow.

“At the Confederations Cup games I attended, the noise was just deafening.  Terrible!  I had (an) earache for weeks afterwards,” Ethel complains.  Her husband adds, “We actually had tickets for the final, and I gave them away.  The simple reason I gave them away was these bloody vuvuzelas!  It is horrendous, the noise that those things make.”

Ethel pleads, “Please, God, let them fix that before the World Cup starts!  Having said that, I’m looking forward to going to the games – with my earplugs and earmuffs!”

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid