Three Lions

Sunday 3rd April was a fairly average day. It was a fairly pleasant Sunday. However, for sport aficionados, it was anything but ordinary; it was the T20 World Cup Final. The final showdown was between England and West Indies. Spoiler alert: the Windies won, with Brathwaite smashing four sixes in the final over to send Windies to a romping victory and their second in four years.

I was heartbroken for my downtrodden England. At one point, it looked as though we may win and that lady luck was on our side. And then it all fell apart. Still, I was shocked we had even made it to the final as we’d had to face the unbeaten New Zealand in the semis, so I was proud of our achievement of second place.

Like many cricket fans, I watched the match whilst tweeting away, showing my unwavering support for my team. It seems that amongst the British Asian community on Twitter, I stood out like a sore thumb.

It’s something I’ve noticed over a number of years: British Asians will support literally anyone other than England. It’s also something I’ve taken extremely personally and, when I’ve spoken to my peers about it, it’s also seen me being met with bafflement and surprise.

Firstly, I should probably clear up why I support England (although you’d think it would be common sense). I am English. I was born and raised in England. England (and the UK) has given me everything. It has nursed me when I was born, it has cared for me when I was ill and it has given me money whilst I was a child. It has educated me and helped me build a bright future for myself. I owe everything in my life to England. I am Indian by heritage, but I am English. That’s why I support England in any and every sport. If England get knocked out, I don’t then go and support India in the cricket. My team is out. I’ll watch the rest of the tournament but I don’t switch sides.

So imagine how conflicted I feel when I hear my peers, all of whom are born and raised in England, support the land of their parents and not the land that has given said parents the opportunity to build a better life for them and their children. Yes, that’s it. British Asians overwhelmingly support India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka over England.

I couldn’t wrap my head around it, so I decided to talk to some colleagues at my previous job who were around my age and definitely British born and bred. Likewise, they don’t understand my perspective. They can’t really explain to me why they refuse to support England. Their whole theory is that they identify as Asian first, British later. But I find that problematic in itself, especially when they say that they feel they have no need to be loyal or proud to be British. This country has indeed given their parents the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their kids, who have somehow reverted back to what their parents escaped. They have this unwavering loyalty to the land of their ancestors whilst simultaneously shitting on Britain from a great height.

Now I’m not saying that the British are perfect. My own father experienced racism when he moved to England in the 70s; he lived in East London and was the only turbaned person around the area of East Ham that he lived in. He saw EDL marches on the streets he frequented. He was a victim of casual racism. I know this. He’s resentful about the partition of India and the repercussions it had on his family. But if you asked him who he credits the life he has to, he would tell you without hesitation that he owes everything to England. We were discussing this at dinner a few weeks ago and he said, ‘It wasn’t my decision to come here, but I’m glad I did because I have a life that I could never have had in India because we were so poor. We had so much debt. I could never have paid it off if I’d stayed there. Now, I’ve paid off all the debts my family have, I can support them and I have a much better quality of life here.’ This, coming from a man who was born and raised in India. My dad spent the first 20 years of his life there. If anyone should have a shred of loyalty to an Asian country, it should be him. So why is it that the children of immigrants who have similar stories to my dad refuse to support England? Even my dad supports England.

I’m not trying to preach or convince anyone that they should/shouldn’t support one team over another. But I can’t understand why British Asians will vehemently support the land of their ancestors without even the slightest bit of acknowledgement to the land that has given them the best start in life. If they had been born in India, Pakistan etc., they wouldn’t have had even half of the opportunities that they have had because of the social welfare state that we have been raised on in Britain. They might not have even been able to get an education, considering you have to pay for school from a small age in India. What’s the crime in supporting England after your team has been knocked out? I’m sure the notion of supporting England from the get-go is too much for them, but why not support them after your team has left the competition?

One thing that is lacking from the British Asian community is pride in being British. A British passport commands respect and you can travel anywhere in the world without the any complications. A British passport opens doors to everywhere. A British passport means you have been raised with an education that many in the world envy. Being British means you have had more privileges than you would have had if you had been born and raised in India. Personally, I am extremely proud to be British; extremely proud to be English. I will always acknowledge my Indian heritage, but I am British, then Asian.

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