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 Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora