Saturday, February 11, 2017

Brexit and British Football

My sons and I just watched a video called Top Fifty Goals Premier League 2016, highlights from last year in English professional soccer. Just your basic sports highlight film, but I was struck by the names. Here are the names of the goal-scorers who appear in the video:

Philippe Coutinho (3 times)
Alam Lallana (2)
Dele Alli (2)
Dmitri Payet (2)
Eden Hazard (2)
Fabio Borini
Roberto Pereyra
Wahbi Khazri
Jose Holebras
Junior Stanislas
Sergio Aguero
Connor Wickham
Stefano Okaka
Anthony Martial
Roberto Firmino
Riyao Mahrez
Abel Hernandez
Steve Cook
Collum Wilson
Shinzi Okazaki
Xherdan Shaqiri
Jesse Lingard
Harry Kane
Andros Townsend
Christian Fuchs
Aaron Cresswell
Aaron Ramsey
Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Wayne Rooney
Mesut Ozil
Charles Gril
Laurent Koscielny
Granit Xhaka
Gaston Ramirez
DeMaray Gray
Sadio Mane
Son Heung-Min
Paul Pogha
Jordan Henderson
Christian Stuani
John Terry
Jamie Vadry
Henrikh Mkhitaryan

As you can see, old-fashioned English names are a distinct minority. Over the past 25 years the English Premier League has become a completely international organization. When I first watched English football in the 70s foreign players were a rarity, but this year only a third of starters are English in the legal sense ("qualified to play for England" is the usual formula). This is the lowest percentage of native players in any of the major European leagues. And while the Spanish league has always had lots of foreign players, they have traditionally been drawn from Latin America (Maradona, Messi), so they mostly speak Spanish and have Spanish names.

Perhaps a more important point is that the names don't necessarily tell you anyone's nationality. Delle Alli was born in Milton Keynes and plays for the English national team; Zlatan Ibrahimovic is Swedish; some of the men with Turkish names are German. Eden Hazard looks like it might be an English name, but he is from Belgium.

Many Europeans worry that their nations are disappearing, absorbed into the culture and economy of Europe. Others celebrate this disappearance, so long as it doesn't effect local cheeses and the like. But it is happening at an amazing rate.

So anyway here is my late-night insight into the Brexit vote: maybe thousands of Englishmen were just pissed off that their stars of the football team they have rooted for their whole life all have foreign names.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

Fast forward to a time in the dystopian future when Britain is 100% British again, and their football teams are racially pure and the laughingstock of the sport. Constantly losing to foreign countries in turn breeds further resentment of foreigners, perhaps raising allegations of cheating or a racial conspiracy against them, or spawning a boycott of European teams and events.

Or perhaps they get fed up with the sport entirely and embrace cricket en masse instead, so that they can have their own sport that they can be "the best in the world" at, like Americans with the laughable "World Series" in baseball. (Nevermind that the most skilled baseball players these days are all Japanese or Latino - supreme overlord Trump will surely Make Baseball Great Again by getting rid of them.)