The word of the Lord came to me: “Daughter of man, take up a lament concerning England. Say to England, situated on an island in the sea, home of a glorious football team known to all peoples, ‘This is what FIFA says:
You say, O England,
“I am undefeated in victory.”
Your domain was on the emerald isle,
your trainers brought your beauty to perfection.
They made your strikers from Liverpool;
your captain from Manchester,
your wings from Newcastle,
and your mid-field from London.
Fine silk of M&S was your uniform,
the 3 lions served as your logo,
and your banners were of red and white.
Men of skill were on your team,
veteran guides your coaches
and noble your manager from Sweden.
Everyone came alongside you
To be part of your game.
Men from Putney, Poole and Preston
served in your fanzine,
They wore the red shirt and hung their flags
From their cars and windows,
Bringing you glory.
On all sides you were surrounded,
Built-up and carried by your supporters.
You filled the heart of the nation.’
[There follows an interim in which the marketing, copyright and purchasing of all merchandise associated with this beloved team can be expressed with holy candour and not undue fervour]
‘But the South-American continent
Will break you to pieces,
In the middle of the World Cup.
Your skill, banners and T-shirts,
your strikers, goalkeeper and defence,
your mid-field and all your substitutes,
and everyone else in the squad
will fall beneath the Brazilian tyranny,
on the day of the quarterfinal.
The stands will moan
when your Yorkshire man lets the ball past.
All who have worked for the team
Will abandon their game;
the strikers and goalkeeper will stand aghast.
They will curse the ground
and cry bitterly over this game,
they will raise their hands to their heads
In disbelief and lower their eyes.
They will pore over the game
In post-match analysis
and ask ‘How did we lose?’
When the Owen scored the first goal,
You were electric and gave everyone hope,
Now your defence is broken,
everyone is weary and lost.
All who cheered for England are silent,
and Tony Blair is sad.
Nations laugh at you,
for you have come to a horrible end
and will be in this tournament no more.’”
(written in 2002).
Header image: Tyre, engraving after a daguerreotype by George Keith, c.1840s. Photograph by Sheona Beaumont.