Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Reaction in Toronto (including thoughts on the World Cup)

Well, I'm back from a lovely two-week vacation in England. It was so lovely, in fact, that I preferred to spend most of it well away from a computer. If I remember correctly, I only wrote three posts. I didn't even watch much television. Sure, I read the newspapers, sort of, but I barely paid attention to what was going on in the news. And, I tell you, it was wonderful. A much-needed break.

(A huge thank you to my co-bloggers and guest bloggers. They really came through during my absence. They make The Reaction so much better than it would otherwise be.)

I did learn this: Tony Blair is extremely unpopular over there, and not just in the Tory stronghold of Buckinghamshire where I spent most of my time.

But what's on the mind of most in England at the moment isn't the tense situation at 10 Downing Street, nor the tenser one in Iraq. It's the upcoming World Cup in Germany (of soccer, of course -- football, if you will). Specifically, there is much concern, magnified in the press, that star striker Wayne Rooney won't be fit enough to play in the tournament, or perhaps not until the elimination rounds, should England even make it that far (a broken foot is the unwelcome culprit). Simply put, England is World Cup-crazy. The St. George's cross flag, England's flag, is everywhere. Almost every pub promises to show the games live. No doubt much beer will be imbibed. Souvenirs and other World Cup paraphernalia seem similarly ubiquitous. The anticipation is palpable.

Hockey arouses our passion up here in Canada, particularly when one of our teams is deep in the Stanley Cup playoffs (Go Edmonton!) or when our national team competes on the world stage, especially at the Olympics, but nothing -- nothing -- compares to the World Cup (not even the Olympics).

In England, the English players -- Beckham, Owen, Lampard, Gerard, et al. -- are superstars, perhaps even more super, to the English (of which I am one), than our hockey stars are to Canadians (which I am, too). Since Canada isn't much of a soccer nation, at least not on the world stage, I have no conflict here: I'll be cheering for England with passion. And Toronto, one of the world's great multicultural cities, will come alive, too -- well, more alive than usual. This city, home to so many communities from around the world, to so many soccer-playing communities, will burst with passion. I often worry about the state of Canadian nationalism, about the state of our cohesiveness as a national community, about what it means to be Canadian, but now is not the time for that. Now is the time to celebrate one of the world's greatest spectacles. It will be played out in Germany. And -- peacefully, one hopes -- it will be played out here in Toronto, too: Italians, Brazilians, Portuguese, Czechs, Ukrainians, Koreans, Serbs, Croats, Poles... They'll all be out waving their flags, cheering on their teams.

And I'll be there, too, along for the ride, hoping for 1966 all over again, very much, as I am now, concerned about the state of Rooney's foot.

I love England, but it's good to be back in Toronto again.

Go England!

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  • I believe Gerrard spells his last name with three "R"s. He was amazing in the FA Cup, which I saw (when I could stay awake) from a hotel room in Bristol, right across the channel from where it was being played in Cardiff. My one regret is that I didn't pick up a cute little lion-mascot stuffed animal - I saw it once in a shop in Bristol, couldn't find the shop the next day, and didn't see any stores selling it in London later in the week.

    By Blogger Elayne, at 10:05 AM  

  • You're right, Elayne. Thank you.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 9:29 PM  

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