Monday, 28 June 2010

I’m with Argentina

The World Cup, Le Mondial, Kass Al Aalam, whatever you call it where you are, has brought home to me the multi-faceted nature of identity. One person defines themselves by religion, another by political party, another by place of birth, another by adopted country. If you’re Palestinian, you can define yourself by a date (’48, or ’67, corresponding with two waves of refugees). It’s a confusing, and, as a foreigner, often frustrating exercise.

For example, I spent all day yesterday explaining, for the hundredth time, that I could be British, while not being English… all while the English football team crashed out of Le Mondial. This distinction is lost on most Lebanese. Apparently, it’s a concept that is totally beyond them. Nevertheless, when one says, “Ok, if I’m English, then you’re Syrian,” it all gets a little traumatic. Actually, if you’re British, and not English, as I am, chances are that your history isn’t all that different from the Lebanese when it comes to invasion, territorial claims and nationality.

Simple fact of the matter is that Lebanon was a part of Greater Syria that, due to political agitation, secured its freedom.


The point is that nationality, or even identity, is an ephemeral thing that means something different to everyone.

At this World Cup, it’s also struck me that there’s no tradition of supporting the underdog here. When asked, “Why do you support Argentina?” an acquaintance replied, “Because they’re the best.” Isn’t that a little dull? British, and, I think, Western culture, is to support the underdog, not the champion-elect.

What do you gain when Brazil collect another cup for the cabinet? Precious little. Now, supporting Slovakia and seeing them win, that’d be a different matter.

When it comes to football, my only hard and fast rule is that I’ll support anyone who’s playing the Germans or the French. I don’t think that needs an explanation. As a result, and against half of my natural inclinations, I’m with *shudder* Argentina.

But, Las Malvinas = Falkland Islands. Losers don't get to name places.

So, for future reference, my Lebanese identity is this: I’m an irreligious Northern Irish man, from a little town outside Belfast, I am politically apathetic due to there being a lack of parties which inspire confidence in the UK. I support no specific football team, unless they are playing against the Germans or the French. And I am certainly not Phoenician.

I think that ticks all the Lebanese boxes.