How to win friends and influence people. Always a good knack to have that. David Beckham seems to be pretty good at it, especially now he’s showcased his astounding ability to wear a scarf. Jamie O Hara, not so much it seems. It’s always good at international level to be seen to be proud of playing for your country. Another thing Beckham was spectacularly good at, and a huge part of his enduring popularity with England fans. It’s becoming increasingly rare nowadays – or certainly seems so, possibly unfairly – as some players often give the impression that a friendly against Turkmenistan is an unwanted distraction from the important business of getting tattooed or buying a horse. Or of course, simply a mercenary exercise.
‘I’ve played for England at under-21 level and I’ve always been an England player when I was growing up.
‘Maybe after the World Cup I’ll have a discussion with my family and some friends and make a decision then. It’s an honour to be involved with your country, whatever country.”
O’Hara’s heartfelt show of loyalty to his Irish brethren seems quite sincere at first glance – or possibly not – but what is he actually saying? Is he actually saying “Well, I want to play for England in the World Cup you see, but if I’m not picked, I suppose I’ll give up on that and have to settle for Ireland instead. I quite like Ireland. I went there once, got t***** and I’ll get a run out there” Lovely stirring stuff I’m sure you’ll agree. And should he not be picked for the World Cup, he can enjoy a relatively free summer of drinking Guinness, learning the National Anthem and finding out what all that stuff about potatoes was all about then. – (The hypothetic musings of Jamie O Hara you understand, not my own cliché’d jingoistic view of Ireland.)
In the age of global multiculturalism, the Granny Rule – which has nothing to do with Wayne Rooney incidentally, and all to do with the nationality of players grandparents, and also not strictly a rule – is a perfectly sensible and right on idea. Why shouldn’t someone with roots in one country but feet in another be able to choose which one he feels more affiliated with? Well, actually, at the risk of being controversial – why should he?
In said age of multiculturalism, does it really matter where your heritage is from anymore? Surely the idea of representing your country has to do with representing your country? And what is a country, but a landmass with certain laws and cultures. 2nd generation immigrants with parents brought up in a foreign land will naturally feel torn. Ryan Giggs is Welsh because despite being brought up in Manchester, both his parents are Welsh, and he was born there. He would’ve grown up with a strong idea of Welsh culture and identity. But Ryan Giggs’ daughter is not Welsh. Not in my view of Welshness at any rate. She’s English. She has no national connections to Wales other than racial ones, if Welsh can even be considered a race. Under the same principle Giggs was eligible to play for Sierra Leone. Which would’ve been lovely for Sierra Leone, but a little farcical given Giggs has presumably very little to do with Sierra Leone in reality.
Now, of course players have the right to represent whomever they want. I for example don’t have the slightest problem with Manuel Almunia declaring himself available for England selection beyond the fact I don’t think he’s a better shot stopper than David James. But when players start picking what National Team to play for by benefit of how it will suit their careers, then the whole principle of International football seems a little muddled. Jamie O’Hara is English. He feels English, just like Andy Townsend and Tony Cascarino presumably do, thought I’d stop short of actually claiming either one of them. And in the end, isn’t that all your nationality boils down to – what you feel? If vague racial connections are all that’s important I might make a play to be declared Namibian. I might get a run out, and we’re all from Africa originally aren’t we?
Your nationality has very little, if anything, to do with genetics anymore, and shouldn’t either. Yet in football it retains a strenuous link to the notion of identity. And who am I to quibble? O’Hara’s deflection would be good for both him and Ireland, just as Irish Jack Charlton’s gaggle of newly patriotic Irishmen were good for the country in competitive competition. Ireland specifically have good cause to call on such back up, as the historically large amount of immigration away from there is always going to be an issue in their case. So I’ve really got no problem with it at all, or feel particularly strongly one way or the other; it just seems a little cynical in O’Hara’s case. If Jamie et all suddenly become engrossed in the culture and history of the Emerald Isle, then they could legitimately claim to be honorary Irishmen, as Deco became a valued and influential honorary Portuguese. But it would be an odd situation to have and Irish player fervently supporting England whenever they play. I’d love to know what the Irish fans would think about such a situation. Does it bother them? Does it not? Is a good team of sort of Irish people preferable to an average one of full-blooded ones? Does it really matter anymore eitherway? Would I look like a twonk if I cut my hair like John Terry?…I’m dying to know.