Well, what do you know: England were knocked out at the quarter-final stage of a major football tournament after losing on penalties to Italy last Sunday. This was despite all the players singing the English National Anthem. I thought that was a guarantee for success. That’s what many media pundits would have you believe over the past week judging by the near hysteria that was brought on in noticing that all the players seemed to be singing every word of ‘God Save the Queen’. There was an absurd notion that this was likely to be responsible for us reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. What a load of cobblers! England have reached the quarter-finals of major tournaments how many times now?
Aside from a few blips we have, in recent years, more often than not successfully got out of the group stage when many members of the team didn’t sing the words to ‘God Save the Queen’. Since Italia ’90 we have only been beaten over the course of 90 minutes at Euro’ ’92, 2000, and the 2002 and 2010 World Cups. We didn’t qualify for USA ’94 and Euro’ ’08, but all the others have been close-cut draws then ended up in ultimate disappointment with a penalty shoot-out, which is becoming as much an English tradition as having fish and chips or a curry on a Friday night (both if you’re a radio DJ from Yorkshire called Chris Moyles).
It may be true that England reaching the knockout stage of the competition this time round is a bigger achievement than it has been in recent years, but it has nothing to do with the team singing an outdated song about a little old lady. Not every player from the current most successful countries in the world such as Brazil, Germany, Spain and Italy sings their national anthem, but they, more often than not, still perform brilliantly at major tournaments. Not every England player sung the anthem in 1966 and we didn’t do too badly then did we?
The criticism that has always been levelled at players for not singing the National Anthem is outrageous. The critics who think that most footballers are ‘thick’ and ‘unintelligent’ were the same ones who would wag their finger at them for not singing the song. Maybe just maybe those players had opinions and didn’t agree with its premise and subject. What if a player is a Republican and/or an atheist? Do they still have to utter the words of the song thus being a hypocrite, which in turn would make frauds of their own critics by not letting them use their own intelligence? Maybe those players do have a conscience and are not just a bunch of mindless zombies who blindly follow orders and do what is seen to be right.
‘God Save the Queen’ is as sycophantic as it gets and conjures up images of people on the ‘lower’ rung of life having to bow and submit themselves to a particular person who happened to be born into a family of great privilege. It’s toe curling to see and hear. Many of the soldiers involved in the Battle of the Somme during the First World War felt aggrieved at the song. A quote attributed to Private J A Hopper said this, ‘‘towards the end of the war, we were so fed up we wouldn’t even sing ‘God Save the King’ in church parade (the words, ‘king’ and ‘queen’ would change depending on who was Head of State). ‘Never mind the King’ we used to say, he was safe enough, it should have been ‘God save us’.’’ It’s a sentiment that a great deal of the country can identify with.
There isn’t really any right or wrong when it comes to music – it’s the feeling it generates that matters – but for many people in England, the music of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘Jerusalem’ is far more inspiring than our current song, while the lyrics of both are far more relevant to our country. How rousing would they be to England and their thousands of supporters before a big international tournament match? Very I suspect.