Today a guest post from The Beck.
Last night, the Telegraph released an interview with Jack Wilshere. He was speaking to the infamous/famous Henry Winter about his views on the possibility of Adnan Januzaj representing England.
This is what he was directly quoted to have been saying:
“If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English, the only people who should play for England are English people.”
“If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English. You shouldn’t play. It doesn’t mean you can play for a country. If I went to Spain and lived there for five years I’m not going to play for Spain.’’
Immediately after I was aware, I began to ask myself if there was any way I could possibly defend Jack for his comments and I realized that I couldn’t.
I’m aware that he is a young man, 2 years younger than me, and that he’s possibly lived a life growing up where his national identity was never in question and his views on “Englishness” was always pre-defined by his surroundings. Questioning the intellect of most footballers will usually not get you very far in accomplishing anything, but I truly believe he has brought up an interesting subject to discuss and to elaborate on. In the first quote, Jack directly attributes that that his version of being English is universal and cannot be changed. His version of national identity appears static and archaic to me.
“If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English” – and I suppose you’d have to ask, why not? Who sets these time constrictions on what it would take for someone to have an accurate grasp of English identity and culture? The government certainly does based on both research and economical aspects. When Jack is saying this, he’s not thinking about all the players who became citizens elsewhere and played for their new adopted country, whether they loved that country, or were grasping that culture and identity is completely subjective and personal to them, it is not something we can decide for others.
Luis Figo, once dismissed Deco for being part of the Portuguese team prior to the Euro 2004 (where they were both hosts and finalists and Deco played a vital role), Figo said:
“I don’t think people would be happy in Spain if I had become a Spanish national and played for the Spanish side,” said the Real Madrid midfielder. “It’s something that distorts team spirit and I don’t agree with it. If you’re born Chinese, well, you have to play for China.”
“It looks like you’re trying to take advantage of something. That’s my opinion and I’m not going to change it because he is in the team.”
Figo there has already decided that Deco was using Portugal, taking advantage of a situation, when in fact it was Portugal who were taking advantage of his new citizenship too.
Deco responded by saying:
“I don’t regret choosing to play for Portugal, I was born in Brazil and it would be a lie to say that I’m Portuguese now and not Brazilian. But I love Portugal and I love playing for the national team.”
See Deco’s experience is also subjective, he recognizes his Brazilian identity to be higher than his Portuguese, but it is not difficult to imagine it the other way around. We live in a very multicultural society in an ever-growing multicultural world, we recognize many different tribal and nationalistic ideas and associate them and stereotype them with what we/our governments and media see fit. The debate was high and live last night, many were suggesting that age mattered, that there was a certain point where players stop adapting to culture or want to belong to another culture, that it is just purely convenient for them to swap nationalities so that they gain caps.
Marcos Senna became a citizen of Spain at the age of 29 and won the European Championship with Spain in 2008. Many would argue that he did so to his advantage, but did not Spain get the advantage too? Was it not convenient for Spain to have a citizen of its country play for them and win them the trophy? So many questions; you all know where I am going with this. Plenty of players in the Spain squad feel more Catalan than Spanish, yet they play for Spain, they love Spain, they play for Spain because they know collectively they will win trophies (some play for Catalonia too).
Owen Hargreaves is another good example, born in Canada, raised in North America, moved to Bayern Munich at 16, lived there until he was 26 before moving to Manchester. He amassed 42 caps for England until the injuries got the better of him, he probably felt more German than English at times? Or more Canadian than German? Or more English than Indian? I don’t know, it gets all confusing, but are we in the game to guess what players feel and how they think before asking them how they truly feel?
I feel like that is one of the biggest flaws in this debate, we assume what players want and ultimately believe they want to “take advantage”, expecting them not to be as “English” as the “Englishman” (vague term, so vague).
Colin Kazim-Richards born in London, raised in England, plays for Turkey, his mother is a Cypriot Turk and his father is Antiguan, does it get confusing yet?
“It’s difficult because half my family is Muslim, and the other half is Christian. I’ve always felt Turkish, though. My nene [grandmother], she can’t speak English. Half of my family, their first language is Turkish, and so I went to Turkish school before I played football, although I can’t remember any of it now”
Owen Hargreaves may have grown up feeling German but playing for England, Colin Kazim Richards may have felt Turkish in that interview, but felt very English had he been a better player? Who knows? I just find it hard to see how footballers and fans have the audacity to tell players and people how to feel and what to be about their national identity? It is you, yourself that gets to choose what you want to be, not them, not an oppressor or a simpleton.
“But you have to have English roots.”
Say that to all the Jamaicans that came to the U.K. in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and became part of the English national team in the 70’s, how they themselves must see the irony in the apparent need for roots. The need for those former Jamaican men that became naturalized British citizens to play was huge. Besides, the whole concept of English roots is absurd. If you need to look into that, there are thousands of pages about DNA and how none of us are a 100% anything, (except me; I’m a 100% pure blooded twat.
Each government that is part of the EU/EEA has substantially given each person a chance to discover another country and become a resident of it, perhaps even share the national identity of it. I am a person who has taken those chances (through war and opportunity), a person who feels no particular tie to one specific country/administrative state/stateless state, but half a dozen, Iraq, Kurdistan, Norway, England, Wales, Hong Kong.
I am a piece of all of them, but I am also none of them.
I’ve seen many people over the age of 30 adapt to a new culture and totally capture it, a friend of mine never felt American and moved to Japan, he speaks the language, lives the culture, is part of the Japanese identity, especially to himself (as he might be an outcast to others). Who am I to tell him that he’ll never be Japanese to me? Isn’t that an oppressive archaic view of nationality and personal identity, that someone’s personal state of national identity is directly related to my own lack of perspective?
Who is Jack Wilshere or any of you to say Januzaj won’t fall in love with British culture/values/identity and become more than a naturalized citizen?
Who is to say he won’t feel English or British in 6 years? People change, people adopt values that adhere to their reason sometimes, it is not always back to tradition and thinking that it always is perhaps why we are having this debate right now (or I’m having it by myself).
What is a nationality, but a giant tribal government construct on what you are or who you should be?
You know, I grew up with a Geordie, a Brummie, a Mancunian, a Scouser and a Cornish man and none of them could ever tell me what it meant to be English other than to point to regurgitated stereotypes that some of them were not even fond of. To each of them, it was different, they had different views on many different things, and the thing that made them English to me was probably the language and the location.
To measure someone’s Englishness is an exercise in taking a stereotype from a world full of propaganda, stereotypes and agenda’s and turning it against those who do not practice it. You could effectively have English ancestors, be born in England, raised in England but not feel English. People are very complex and to simplify them is a disservice to both their thoughts and abilities to change and grow and become more than a piece of propaganda or national pride (tribal/government construct).
If you look at all countries as if they were all going through a constant transitional cultural change, I believe your view on nationality would change, but most only see it in the moment.
Have a lovely day.
Should you wish to take The Beck to task or agree with him,he can be found on twitter