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Running with the pack

Voices | Published:

By Toby Chiang

Toby Chiang

A FEW times a year on some official form or other I let the authorities, large corporations or government bodies know that I am British.

Just recently I ticked a little nationality tick-box in an online travel form to label myself this way. I don’t feel British, but my passport says I’m British, so the box was ticked.

For administrative purposes, we in Jersey are Brits – and that’s fine. I usually hardly give it a second thought.

Similarly, I don’t really feel any strong sense of being Jersey (Jersiaise? Jerseyan? Jerseyite? Beanish? We really should pick one). Nor do I feel Asian. And I’ve never felt a national sense of anything.

Until recently.

The World Cup has triggered some sort of tribal response that doesn’t completely make sense to me.

I’m not much of a football fan at all, but, like many, have been completely absorbed by the contest and its high drama.

And when England took the lead against Sweden on Saturday afternoon I let out a growling ‘yeeess’ and did a little fist-pump. I’m not sure I’d ever done that before, but there I was acting like I’d scored the opening goal, while thinking ‘take that, Sweden, with your maddening flat-pack furniture, lingonberries and above-averagely attractive population’.

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My celebration was automatic, visceral and unconscious. Shortly after this reaction my brain did a little assessment of the situation, asking: ‘What happened there? That wasn’t like us. We haven’t done that before.’

I’m sure it will be the same when England play Croatia tomorrow evening. There’s absolutely no consequence for me personally if England lose (or win). But there I’ll be, growling at the television, giving advice to some of the country’s top sportsmen about how they could do their job better.

I can’t explain it except to say that in this context, under these circumstances, I suppose England is ‘my tribe’. It must be a primitive, early-man instinct, because the only real thing that connects me to the country is language. And that’s ridiculous when you think about it, because I could pop over to most places in Europe, pick a person in the street and the chances are we could probably have some sort of conversation in English.

But there I’ll be on match day, talking about ‘us’ and ‘we’ – me and the team that is – the primitive part of my brain working double-time to make sure that I’m running with the pack.

Toby Chiang

By Toby Chiang
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