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Pain of defeat is gone but the shame of being English remains.

THE DULL headache, the legacy of drowned sorrows at England's Euro2000 humiliation, thankfully receded yesterday - but a sickness in the pit of my stomach wouldn't shift.

That nausea seemed unexplained until the grim truth dawned - the shame of England's soccer yobs in the last ten days made me wish I wasn't English.

As if defeat on every sporting front - culminating in the realisation that England's footballers are now the laughing stock of Europe - wasn't enough, today I feel real contempt for many of my own countrymen.

And, to my horror, I'm actually glad that Adams, Beckham, Shearer and co. are coming home - it's better to be knocked out than thrown out.

And it's a blessed relief not to have to cringe at the mindless scum, who have the nerve to say they back England, humiliating my homeland any longer.

Last month a fleet of aged boats, of all shapes and sizes, re-enacted Dunkirk - one of Britain's and England's proudest moments.

The crews of 1940 braved shells, bombs and bullets.

And for what?

To give England's so-called soccer fans, the detritus of civilisation, a chance to terrify the people their forefathers fought to liberate.

I make no apologies for my patriotism, for cheering on England on the international sporting stage.

But events of the last week, where support has become savagery and cheers become carnage, have obliterated that pride with shame.

When I came to Scotland earlier this year, I was warned about Scottish short tempers and propensity for punch-ups.

After the past week all notions of that stereotype have gone.

In fact, I'm all in favour of bussing the English north for lessons in how to behave like human beings.

Throughout Euro2000, myself and a small English enclave have been lucky enough to watch England's dwindling fortunes a in a small Glasgow pub.

Now Maryhill, even to its partisan residents, does not rank high among Glasgow's more salubrious districts.

Gangster Frank McPhee was gunned down not five minutes walk from the Viking Bar.

The pub's clientele have their fair share of black eyes and broken noses - the tell-tale sign of a rough area.

YET, if common decency showed on the face, the Viking Bar would be awash with Brad Pitt and Mel Gibson lookalikes.

Of course they roared their approval for England's opponents, and of course we cheered on those rare occasions when England did well.

But there was never a hint of violence.

There was never the remotest sign of a thrown punch, bottle, tumbler or chair.

When the Portuguese handed out a footballing masterclass, sympathetic bar staff bought us a round of drinks to commiserate. When England defied history to beat Germany, there were handshakes and pats on the back.

And when England were overrun by a better Romanian side, there were words of comfort and consolation rather than catcalls of derision.

But the agony of defeat just got worse when a BBC undercover investigation into English hooliganism in Euro2000, broadcast immediately after the match, laid out the true, stark horror of what had happened.

Hard men in the Viking Bar stood in silence as they watched flabby, shaven-headed thugs drag English football through the gutter and into the sewer.

Here were so-called England fans, the people with the bare-faced cheek to pillory David Beckham for a moment of madness in the last World Cup, thriving on brutal fights, racist taunts and beer-fuelled looting.

Although I knew the footage was recorded, such was my anger that I felt the urge to exhort the Belgians to send in the water cannon or baton charge the rabble.

Viking Bar regulars, with their broken noses and black eyes, shook their heads and gave me sympathetic looks. My heart sank in shame.

And, in the surroundings of a Glasgow bar, what little English pride remained was shattered.

j.mellor@mirror.co.uk
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Author:Mellor, James
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 22, 2000
Words:640
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