Features

Why I'm proud to have an England flag on my Audi

14 June 2014

8:00 AM

14 June 2014

8:00 AM

World Cup fever has arrived. Every morning on the way to work, more little plastic flags of St George flutter from white vans or, in my case, from the window of our trusty Audi A6. Many of my fellow countrymen regard this footie orgy as wholly unnecessary — not me.

Bunting will go up at the front of our house if we advance to the quarters, whereupon my wife will spend most evenings in a curry house with a girlfriend, leaving me to invite the lads round for random games such as Honduras v. Ecuador. Result.

More than anything, the tournament offers a chance to wheel out my one Roy Hodgson (he’s the England manager) anecdote. It was back in 1994 when he was coach of Switzerland and about to take his team to the World Cup in America, for which England did not qualify.

I was working at the Sunday Telegraph at the time and was dispatched to Zurich to write about Sepp Blatter, who was doing a terrific job scaling the greasy pole on his way to becoming Fifa’s disastrous head honcho. Interview over, I spotted Mr Hodgson in the lobby of Fifa’s swanky HQ and introduced myself.

Thinking I might get a piece along the lines of ‘Here’s one Englishman who is going to the World Cup’ and noticing that it was almost 1 p.m., I asked if I could buy him lunch.

‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘I’ve got meetings all day. But I could do tomorrow.’


We met at a plush hotel and he could not have been more charming. We talked football during the starters and broadened things out for the main course to include women priests, the novels of Philip Roth and his experience as a PE teacher at Alleyn’s, the independent school in south London.

He chose an excellent red and what amazed me was that we had a conversation rather than me firing questions and him giving pap answers. He asked if I had children and said that speaking a foreign language (he speaks fluent Norwegian, Swedish, German and Italian and can make himself understood in French, Danish and Finnish) was a great qualification.

As we got up to leave he inquired whether I knew Zurich. I said I didn’t. ‘Well, I’ll show you round if you like. Hop in.’

And off we went in his shiny Mercedes, stopping every now and again while he pointed out various landmarks. After almost an hour, he pulled up and we shook hands. I thanked him profusely and he drove off to pick up his wife, Sheila, with whom he was going to a concert later that evening.

I enjoy telling this story because I hope it helps people get behind Roy’s boys and, believe me, they are going to need all the support they can muster. Yes, it’s exciting that he’s picked some youngsters but we all know that, with apologies to Robert Louis Stevenson, this is a classic case of how to travel hopefully being far better than to arrive.

Of course, if England go all the way, David Cameron will bemoan ever agreeing to a fixed-term parliament, although it’s worth pointing out that contrary to popular belief, Harold Wilson did not win the 1966 general election on the back of England’s World Cup triumph, for the simple reason that he went to the polls on 31 March and the Wembley final was on 30 July.

My first book was about the 1998 World Cup. It didn’t sell many copies because England lost (heroically as ever) on penalties to Argentina in the first knock-out round and nobody wanted to be reminded of that balmy night in St Etienne, when an 18-year old Michael Owen scored arguably the best goal ever by an Englishman at a World Cup, before Becks got sent off for kicking the Argie captain and then Paul Ince and David Batty missed their penalties.

I was pretty much in tears at the final whistle, not least because it meant I had to drive through the night to get back to La Baule in Brittany to catch coach Glenn Hoddle’s valedictory press conference the next morning.

‘Pull yourself together,’ said the man from the Times. ‘We’re not supporters with typewriters,’ said the Mail’s Jeff Powell.

But it’s not all about England. Think about Bosnia and Herzegovina, playing in their first ever World Cup. The father of one player was killed in the war, another watched, aged seven, as his family home was burned to the ground. I hope they do well.

And I always like the way the USA are seen as minnows. Most Americans will have no idea the World Cup is going on. Conservatives over there see soccer as a liberal sport, a foreign import with socialist leanings, when of course nothing could be further from the truth. No professional American sport dares flirt with a league system in which teams get promoted or relegated. Instead, everything possible is done to create parity — hardly capitalism in action.

But back to Croydon-born Mr Hodgson. He’s playing a blinder so far, allowing the players to get out and about, co-operating with the media. More important, he’s even said ‘We can win it!’ when we all know this is plainly absurd.

Mark Palmer is travel editor of the Daily Mail.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
  • Kitty MLB

    O God save us from little boys and their need to kick balls about.
    This will go on for weeks and weeks.I’ll just read obscure literature
    in a scented bath or sit in the garden writting.And there are lodgers
    hanging upside down from the rafters in my attic to care for.
    Mind you Wimbledon is around at the same time..and the
    devine, as well as graceful Roger Federer.

    • Blindsideflanker

      There is a more important man’s game this weekend, England vs All Blacks.

      .

    • P.chi ki wan

      England ladies being doing rather well lately, stupid little girls kicking balls.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Hey Kitty, give me your input: That initial meeting.
      “So what football team do you support?” Ingratiating smile.
      Highest rated response: “I have no interest in football.”
      Countered with:
      “Do you smoke (cigarettes)?”
      Highest rated response:
      “No, I hate smoking … and smokers… and the tobacco industry.”
      Anything resembling a positive response: “God, is that the time? I`ll miss my bus.”
      So that`s first base. Not a Catholic are you?
      “God, is that the time …”
      Jack, Japan Alps

    • TimeandtheRani

      Well aren’t you a bore.

  • Torybushhug

    Dance naked down Camden high street wrapped in an Irish flag and you will be applauded by the blacksackhags nibbling on their artisan toast. Switch to the English flag and watch them turn their backs.

  • Pier66

    Camden is a labour scum feudo full of shit

    • global city

      a psuedo feudo!

      • Pier66

        Like islington and rubbish place as TH in the est scum!
        YNWA and TORY ALL THE WAY

      • Pier66

        What means psuedo please?

        • global city

          Fake, pretentious, desperate to be seen to be cool so pretends to believe in things that they do not really, especially with regards to style, fashion, culture and politics.

          • Pier66

            Well we can use few words: fucking lefty!
            The problem is that the world is full of those laburist lefty animals ,
            that as great Churchill said must be kill in the cradle…

        • Pier66

          Well we can use few words: fucking lefty!

          • global city

            Just to be sure, I was making the point about there being feudal enclaves inhabited by pseuds and liberal progressive left wing idiots…. a pseudo feudo!

            I am not 100% sure that you understand I was not mocking you!

          • Pier66

            Thanks a lot, Yes I understand
            I know very well those lefty at first sight and I hate them all

          • global city

            Good.
            🙂

      • balance_and_reason

        Methinks we have an over enthusiastic new convert to the free market way….maybe a few lessons in British reserve necessary.

  • global city

    It must be really oppressive to be a member of the bubble headed flapperait set.

    They are all so pretentious and intolerant, but in such an ignorant way.

  • Ed Seyfried

    I heart Roy! Any Fulham fan will tell you how Roy can take a mediocrely talented collection of past-its, dress then in white shirts and black shorts and see them through to a knock-out final! COYW! COE!!

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    England flag on an Audi? Can someone suggest an English passenger car?

    • Pier66

      Bentley, Mini Cooper, RR, MG,

      • balance_and_reason

        german, german , german and no longer being made.

        • Pier66

          England England England England England ALL THE WAY
          Always and For Ever
          YNWA and TORY

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            It`s guys like you Pier that I left Mother England to get away from.
            Jack, Japan Alps

          • Pier66

            I really don’t think so,
            You can’t left GREAT ENGLAND never… If you a real English will be always with you Every step of your life!
            Ynwa & Tory in charge for next Century

          • TimeandtheRani

            You know the articles above the comments section, all full of grammar and punctuation, making calm and rational points etc, whether or not one agrees with them. Do you ever read them and think maybe my own comments should resemble them as much as possible, in form if not content?

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            You silly twisted boy.

          • Pier66

            It’s guys like you that I keep belive strong in Tory thanks !
            Ynwa and Tory in Power til next century

        • GenJackRipper

          Deutschland, Deutschland, Über Alles, Über Alles in der Welt!

          • balance_and_reason

            blame it on the unions, blame it on labour nationalisation, blame it on anything you like but that is the way it is with cars at the moment.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Come in No.66, you guys arw just the hired help.

        • Pier66

          What’s mean?

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            What does that mean? Was that what you were trying to say?

  • Baron

    Mark, wake up, Roy Hodgson may be an affable guy owning a shiny Mercedes, who can choose a good wine, speak umpteen languages, talk knowledgeably about women priests and whatever, but this is football we’re talking here.

    He is on record saying he doesn’t do speeches before a match. lets the boys sit quietly in the dressing room, contemplate. Why? He should be there boosting their confidence, kicking their overpaid ar$es, telling them ‘give it all you have’.

    Harry must be enjoying it.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Remind me, when`s this World Cup over?

  • Three Friends

    Since plunder destroys liberty and stalls civilization’s advance, it leads to even more demands to redistribute even more wealth, thus accelerating the downward spiral.

  • Yes

  • JackBlack1

    Personally don’t see the appeal of soccer, 22 overpaid borderline rapists kicking a ball around while wearing shirts with their names and IQs on the back in case they forget.

    • P.chi ki wan

      I prefer to watch Football,Soccer sounds an awful game!

      • JackBlack1

        Which kind? Football is a term which refers to any number of sports, I personally enjoy Gridiron football (NFL), Rugby Union, and Aussie Rules

  • GenJackRipper

    The US is getting better and better.
    Not sure how I feel about that.

    Football has always been a european sport with some south american (usually european decended) flavour.
    Asia is getting somewhat better but not influincing; not sure what a stronger America will mean.

    I suppose it’s nice that the sport is growing, though.

Close