Matthew Monk is a school teacher
from the UK who has the World Cup as one of his greatest passions. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
Read earlier columns
It is Jubilee weekend here in the UK. That means that
Elizabeth Windsor has been our unelected head of state
for 50 years. Something to celebrate? I don't think
so. When I use my passport, the first page states
that Her Britannic Majesty's Government demands and
requests that I am allowed to remove around without
let or hindrance, because I am one of her loyal
subjects. In other words: 'Foreigners, this passport
belongs to a subject of Her Majesty, The Queen. Do as
your told!' Does it make me feel proud, am I going to
be celebrating 50 years of luxurious living and tax
avoidance? I don't think so somehow.
But there are flags all over the place where I live -
on flagpoles in front of the civic centre, hanging out
of bedroom windows, attached to taxi cabs, painted on
pub walls. The British media would like us to believe
that this is for the Jubilee, but something else less
organised and orchestrated is going on. The news is
full of pictures from 1977, the last time we had a
Jubilee. Then Union Jack bedecked street parties
could be found up and down the country. Old women
made red, white and blue cakes. Old military men put
on their finest tweed blazers and made stirring
speeches about Churchill and Her Majesty. And the
country seemed to go along with it, happily. It was a
burst of colour in dreary lives, a time for excitement
and an opportunity to get blind drunk in the street in
front of your house. And it is remembered very
The government wanted to repeat it this year. They
declared this Monday to be an 'Official United Kingdom
Party Day' as if we have these all the time. But this
time no one seemed to take much notice. More street
parties are planned in Nepal than in Dundee, and a
city the size of Manchester can boast no more than a
handful of events. Yet the flags are everywhere.
What is going on?
The Jubilee has been hijacked, as it was in 1977.
Then Punk took over and split the nation, creating
anti-heroes like The Clash and the Sex Pistols; today
it is football.
Maybe this is not the case in sleepy villages and
towns in conservative Southern England, but in urban
Britain for every Union Flag (the symbol of the
monarchy after all) you see ten or fifteen St George's
Crosses - the symbol of English football. Ever since
Euro 96 - when football did come home into the hearts
of the English - this flag has taken on a new meaning.
Once a symbol of the far right, the red and white St
George Cross is today a badge of allegiance to the
cause of Sven, Michael and Becks. And the huge amount
of these flags on display shows just how much
expectation and goodwill rides through Japan with
The expectation is real. Ever since that victory over
Germany last September it has not been unusual to see
England mentioned as possible World Champions. And as
we reach the opening fixture against Sweden, almost
everyone thinks we are going to win, deep down. It is
not a British thing to be boastful, and we much prefer
to see ourselves as plucky underdogs, so the press is
full of predictions of Italian or Argentinian winners.
But if you talk to an ordinary fan they fully expect
to be able to beat anyone put in front of those Three
It is also very fashionable to support England. It is
not patriotic fervour, like we saw in 1977 when the
idea behind the Jubilee was to remind the world how
important Britain still was. Today the England
captain and his wife are style icons, and adorn more
celebrity magazines than football ones. In 1977 the
face of England captain Emlyn Hughes would be the last
one picked to sell sunglasses or Pepsi. Today you
cannot move without banging into something celebrating
On BBC television tonight there is a choice of
primetime viewing: hour upon hour of Jubilee music
concerts or a four-hour history of English
international football since 1966 (to go along with
the six-hour history of the World Cup since 1966 shown
last week). Both will be watched in equally high
numbers. And then comes the main event - England
against Sven's home nation, Sweden.
England are at full strength all of a sudden. Beckham
is back, as is Keiron Dyer. Sven suddenly has
selection problems; does he stick with Owen Hargreaves
or bring back Nicky Butt? What about Emile Heskey?
Who plays at full back? All nice quandaries to have
you have to think.
In the English press the only Swede (apart from Sven)
getting any attention is Freddie Ljungberg, and his
will-he-won't-he-start saga. Ljungberg had an amazing
run in the final six weeks of the English season
scoring goals and making chances for Arsenal. But no
one is talking about Henrik Larsson, and against the
pedestrian English defence he might be hoping to get a
high number of chances. And England have not managed
to beat Sweden for 34 years.
So are England going to win? Probably. Ljungberg and
Larsson have played well in successful club teams,
surrounded by good players, who are almost always
better than their opposition. The Swedish players who
are based in England - except Ljungberg - play for
Coventry, Southampton, Everton and Aston Villa. It is
hardly the Champions League is it? On top of this
England are a young, hungry team that is more relaxed
than at any time before. The players are far more
experienced for their age than at previous tournaments
and are fitter and more skilful than ever. Also they
can boast the current European Footballer of the Year
amongst their ranks for the first time at a World Cup.
When you look at things impartially it does point to
an English victory.
Jimmy Armfield is a name not that famous these days.
He had a long and distinguished career for England,
both as full back and Captain and is regarded as being
amongst the best ever in both roles. Later he coached
Leeds to the European Cup Final and became a respected
radio analyst. He made another of his insightful
comments this week, pointing out that if the people of
England did not believe, did not expect, then who
And that is the point exactly. Because the country
expects so much, indeed because the country wants to
be able to expect so much, it is filtering through to
the squad. We want to win; finally after all these
false dawns and failures we look to have the chance to
do that. The country is expectant.
It will either be an exciting, happy nation over this
long holiday weekend, or a wet, miserable one.
England really does expect, not just that every man
will do his duty - in the words of the message sent by
Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar
centuries ago - but that we have something to look
In preparation, the BBC has lined up the most English
of all movies for the night before we meet Argentina
in Sapporo - The Italian Job is on again. Unless you
live in Britain you are unlikely to have seen it or
even heard of it. It is the story of Michael Caine
and his gang of flash Cockney wideboys, who travel to
Turin under the cover of an England/Italy World Cup
qualifier to steal £4 million from Fiat. Of course
the caper eventually fails - famously with a coach
full of gold bullion teetering over the edge of an
Alpine mountain - but with its (dated) high fashion,
football references, sing-a-long songs and red, white
and blue Minis tearing up the streets of Italy, it is
as close to a fantasy image of Englishness as can be
But of course no one will feel like watching it if
England have lost to Sweden and are looking at
elimination at the hands of Argentina. That would be
too daunting to think about. We have been ordered to
celebrate this weekend, and an England win is about
the best way to ensure that. It is also the best
thing a republican could be given this weekend.
Because I would much rather see Beckham's face all
over the media than the Queen's. Now is that too much
Info on how
the World Cup was founded and about the trophy as well.
on every match in every tournament.
Interesting columns about the past, present and future of the World Cup.
with appearances in the World Cup. Detailed info on every country.
of many of the most influential players in history.
An A-Z collection
of strange and different stories in World Cup history.
A big collection
of various statistics and records.
since it was introduced in 1966.
knowledge about the WC. Three different levels. No prizes, just for fun.
lots of stuff. For instance Best Goals, Best Players and Best Matches.
of links to other soccer sites with World Cup connection.
and buttons for you to link to us if you want.
A little information
on who keeps this site available.