Opinion: Should England’s footballers have to be told to sing national anthem?

England's (left to right) Steven Gerrard, Joe Hart and Wayne Rooney during the national anthem. Picture: Nick Potts / PA England's (left to right) Steven Gerrard, Joe Hart and Wayne Rooney during the national anthem. Picture: Nick Potts / PA

Aidan Semmens
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
1:00 PM

I’ll admit it here: I’m not really one for standing up and belting out the national anthem.

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Partly because the whole idea of “nation” makes me a tad uneasy. “My country, right or wrong” must have a claim to being the most stupid slogan anyone ever tried to live their lives by.

Partly because even if I believed in God, I’d have trouble seeing why he should do any special favours for the Queen.

And, let’s face it, our national tune is a particularly spiritless dirge.

Give me the uplift of France’s glorious Marseillaise every time. Mind you, there’s a line in there about “watering our furrows with an impure blood” which could make a fellow a little queasy in these supposedly more enlightened times.

Even Deutschland Uber Alles has a jauntier tune than ours, but let’s not go there...

If it’s entirely necessary to have a national song, what could be more apt (or a better tune) than Jerusalem? I’m fairly certain “those feet” never did in fact touch England’s pleasant pastures, but the “dark satanic mills” can always raise a grim, knowing smile.

If they had a proper song like that to sing, maybe England manager Roy Hodgson wouldn’t have to tell his players to lift up their hearts and voices when it was played. Maybe.

Hodgson has a point when he compares the traditionally lacklustre, gum-chewing demeanour of English players at anthem time to the hand-on-heart enthusiasm of so many opponents.

But do we really want our boys to be (or behave like) unreconstructed nationalists?

I’m not convinced it would make them better players. The point, surely, is the team, not the dear old Queen?

And is there really any reason to believe more in the clutching of a national shirt than the kissing of a club badge? And that, as we know, often seems to accompany the desire to seek better-paid employment under a different emblem. But sure, Roy, if it makes you happy. Let the boys sing out.

As he says: “I think we’re great until the second verse comes along because we don’t really know that...”

That’ll be the one about scattering her enemies, confounding their politics and frustrating their knavish tricks.

Some of those players certainly know some knavish tricks, don’t they? Diving, shirt-pulling, name-calling, ref-baiting – antics no self-respecting Englishman would ever get up to, what?

But politics? That’s where the stuff in verse six come in, obviously.

You know the one. That’s the one with the lines:

“May he sedition hush

And like a torrent rush

Rebellious Scots to crush”.

No doubt there are a few patriotic Englishman who’d sing that bit just now with proper verve.

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