I’m someone that doesn’t really believe in national borders. I find it a very strange concept that an arbitrary line in the ground means that the people are somehow “different”.
I understand the need for countries, I understand the need to group people together in an administrative format so that rules and regulations can be set and that we can all benefit from working together and creating community groups and associations – such as the NHS for us in the UK.
But I really struggle with nationalism – that crazy sense of pride some people get just because of the accident of where they were born. We’ve all seen *that* guy that wears the national flag on almost every item of clothing and beats his chest at almost every occasion. Part of the problem is that in this country nationalism is so close to racism. Pride of “us” often crosses the line to become rejection of “them”. And I really struggle with that.
Until we come to sport.
In sport I’m happy to cheer for England or Great Britain or for anyone representing them. Without being nationalistic, I passionately cheer for sports men and women from my nation.
At home the situation is further complicated by the fact that my wife is German and so my son is half British and half German. Regularly he cheers for the “other” team not having the same ties to the British competitors – in fact he’s cheering Australia in Ashes.
So why do I become so nationalistic when it comes to sport. I thinks it’s partly to do with the very nature of sport, the whole narrative of sport is that it needs a bad guy. It needs someone to cheer for and therefore someone to cheer against. However, I’m still not sure it is nationalism (or am I just trying to defend my own position?)
What I think it is about though is localism, rather than nationalism.
To help me cheer, to help me feel passionate about the action, to help me get involved, it helps to feel linked to the competitors, to know more about them. Sport is best when it’s got drama and intensity – and drama is created by knowing the stories and emotions. And of course we get to know the stories of those athletes, teams, sportspeople that are more local to us.
So it was great to cheer on both Andy Murray and the British and Irish Lions to victory earlier this summer. And I’m excitedly cheering on England in the Ashes. But equally, I’m happy for Joshua to cheer on Germany whenever they play (although I’m less keen on him cheering on Australia in the cricket!)