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Don't let football get mixed up in your displays of nationalism.

Byline: Abbie Wightwick

JUST as we are over the xenophobia of the Rugby World Cup, nationalism is on the march again, this time under the name of that other great sport - football.

Wales is about to clash with England and Northern Ireland in the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign.This has prompted news stories about how Wales is licking its lips with anticipation. For what? The pub brawls?

I'm not a killjoy but someone just remind me what the fun is about. A lot of blokes running around a field exhibiting skill and prowess with a ball of differing shape. Fine if that's what turns you on. Problem is what really seems to turn some people on is mindless tribalism.

Seeing grown-ups trot along the street swathed in flags down to their ankles is embarrassing.

Suddenly we are all English, Welsh, Scottish, Australian or whatever, rather than people belonging to the place we choose to live. An Australian friend was nearly drawn into a fight in a Cardiff pub just before the rugby showdown when a fellow drinker took exception to his Aussie mate humming Waltzing Matilda. Rather than take it in the jokey way it was intended the angry Anglophile spat at him. Lovely.

Nationalism, like spitting, is childish. It's all about the insecurity of wanting to be the same and to belong. Remember being 11 and having to have a particular brand of jeans or shoe? It's as sad as paying pounds 1 to have a dragon stamped on your cheek to let everyone know you're in their club.

And the dreadful, moronic chant of 'Ingerlaand'' makes me squirm. I can't stand the thought of anyone imagining that I share anything with these people even though I am English (well, more of that later because I might not be).

All this determination to be this or that or the other is rather odd as the British are precisely that - a mix of this, that and the other.

The English, Welsh, Scots and Irish have all been inter-breeding for thousands of years. Having been invaded by the Romans, Normans, Vikings, Saxons and whoever else washed up here intent on rape and pillage Britain can scarcely claim to be a country of the racially pure. Is there such a thing as a pure Welsh,

English, Scottish or Irish gene? It seems doubtful.

One study of the Lake District area of England found most people in one village were Scandinavian by blood (they didn't know).

The Romans, given that their soldiers came from an empire stretching to Africa and back, must have mixed us up even more. All the better too if you ask me. If nature intended us all to stay in one place we would marry our brothers and have kids with four heads.

When I had my first child, someone asked what nationality she would be, given that she was born in Wales to an English mother and a Scottish father. My answer was that I didn't know. The questioner assumed I was English because of my accent - my mother's family is in fact Irish. My husband, though apparently Scottish, has a Norwegian mother. Of course neither the Scandinavian nor the Irish blood really show in Wales where there is a mix of all these peoples. Me being dark-haired and him being light seemed neither strange nor exotic in Cardiff. And as for our nationalities? I guess we'll just plump for being mongrels. I'm delighted to say we don't have a flag.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 9, 2003
Words:584
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