When your home country is playing Sweden in the World Cup….
In my native England, the most prominent football song is probably “Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home)“. Now for me, this is a problem. I have all of a sudden – inexplicably and with no precedent for this – become a huge fan of the World Cup (“VM”, på svenska). And when I think of the World Cup, I think of that song. Because that song ROCKS, and is completely tied to watching football and childhood for me (my dad singing it in the shower/kitchen/any environment along the space-time continuum). But: my home is Sweden now! What does football coming “home” mean for me anymore!? And Sweden are playing England on Saturday…what a conflict of interest! Sweden reached the quarter finals after their win against Switzerland on Tuesday, and this is the first time they are reaching the quarter finals since 1994. Because I over-sentimentalise everything, I feel a weird harmony with the team I suddenly care a lot about, because 1994 is my birth year too. So, to commemorate this summer obsession, and to open up a conversation with you guys about Sweden, football and sporting politics in the country, this blog is going to take a look at that weird feeling you have when Sweden becomes your home, but then you’re from somewhere else and your country end up meeting Sweden in the World Cup.
We’re a confusing bunch. We’re definitely not confused about our love for all things Sverige, but equally we sit there in a crowded Swedish supporters’ stand with our Swedish top on speaking extremely broken Swedish and hoping people don’t notice our weird syntax. (Did I say “we”? I mean this was me on Tuesday being very self-conscious about this). Who cares! Jimmy Durmaz til I die! Anyway: I asked some people who know this conflicting feeling well about how they felt when their country met Sweden in the World Cup.
My lovely colleague who you may know well, Andrés, is there in Russia at the World Cup right now! I asked him about how he felt when Sweden were playing his home country, Mexico. He said:
“In Mexico football is huge. For a lot of people, football is everything. I was amazed by how many Mexicans came to Russia. All the streets were flooded by Mexicans. People with sombreros and ponchos everywhere hahaha. I think that before the game I was nervous but excited at the same time. The feeling of listening to your anthem in a stadium where 80% are Mexicans is just amazing.
Of course I was cheering for Mexico and Mexico only. When it comes to football (and a lot of other things) I see Mexico with eyes of love. At the end I was happy that Sweden and Mexico went through the next round.”
Lorayn, who I studied with during my Bachelor’s in the UK, married a Swede and has moved with her family here to Sweden. She said of her feelings on the upcoming England vs. Sweden match on Saturday:
“How do I feel. Ugh. Well, either way we go through! One of my teams is in the semis. But, tbh, I’m Swedish by choice. I apply for citizenship in August. This is my country. Jag vill leva, jag vill dö i norden…And if England win, well, I’ll sing three lions like there’s no tomorrow.”
And then there is Sophia, 24, who I also studied with in the UK. She is half Swiss half English, and was a little torn on Tuesday for Sweden vs. Switzerland. Though this isn’t because she lives in Sweden – just she pulled Sweden in her work’s sweepstake to bet on who would win the World Cup. Here’s what she has to say about Saturday:
Sophia: I think ultimately I wanted my own countries to win. Patriotism. But losing was sweet. Because cash. And yeah I want England to win on Saturday. Because community. But also. Doubt it.
Emma: You don’t think they will win?Sophia: Erm nah. I think Sweden is better.
So what do the Swedes think? In general, Swedes’ national temperament is one of pretty consistent humbleness. They don’t overstate themselves too much. They don’t brag about their accomplishments. Most Swedes I have asked the question “Do you think Sweden will beat England on Saturday?” to have very quickly replied with a laugh and a “No.” I wanted to speak to someone very well versed in both Swedish and English football, so went to my Swedish friend Tim for some expert advice:
“I have absolutely no idea and I’m super superstitious and already really nervous so kinda don’t wanna jinx but if i have to say anything I’d lean on a win…. simply because Sweden has the best defence in the tournament and England has the arguably worst of the teams that are left. But i’m not sure at all!!!”
My friend Hannah, who is half-English/half-Swedish, and ever the contrarian, said:
“Since I’m in Sweden I’ll probably be cheering for England, if I was in England I’d cheer for Sweden.”
Beatrice, my former roommate (whom, for context, watched 4 seasons of Bron in two weeks and is my personal champion), is Swedish and now lives in London. We’ve often spoken about our desire to switch citizenships, were that possible (of course it isn’t, because nepotism is BAD!). Of the game, she says:
“I hope we will win. I will go and get face paint. And paint flags wow.”
Well, for England vs. Sweden on Saturday, everyone is nervous and no one knows! In terms of how it feels as someone who isn’t Swedish watching your home country, a lot of the people I’ve spoken to are definitely more loyal to their home countries, but that’s either because their home country is wild about football, or they’re a huge football fan themselves. If you have been indifferent about The Beautiful Game until now (I’m raising my hand in the air like I’m in class right now, this very much applies to me), then you may find yourselves supporting Sweden more.
For me, it’s because I know that Sweden haven’t qualified for 12 years, so I know this means a lot. It’s also because the English squad tend to get A Wee Bit Rowdy (see: Tuesday’s match against Colombia where 7 yellow cards were handed out because everyone KEPT FIGHTING!) For me, it is both in terms of what it seems to mean to Sweden, the atmosphere here when Sweden win, and because the team are – it seems – not as violent as the English team. I have a lot of people back home poking a bit of fun at me and saying “but Emma you’re English”, and berating me for supporting the Swedish team so much and being a little bit more indifferent about the English one. But, and though this the first time I am ever caring sincerely about football, isn’t that the point of the game? It’s less about being aggressively nationalistic once every four years, and more about being in the crowd with the community that you love. It’s the feeling of who you’re watching it with in the crowd. On Tuesday, it was the feeling that every time a Swedish player had the ball, people would yelp out excitedly. Even when the ball was being punted way too high in the sky, and there was NO WAY it would reach the goal. Everyone was just so excited that the ball was there with one of the Swedish players. It just feels like something which I’ve felt is part of Swedish society more broadly: a kind of optimistic gratitude. To me, it feels like Swedes are so surprised and excited to have gotten this far, so every moment becomes very special, and imbued with a kind of little lightness and joy. So for me, that’s why I’ll be supporting Sweden….just a little bit more than I’ll be supporting England on Saturday.
^The author (me!!) singing “Three Lions” whilst acknowledging she’s wearing a Sweden shirt…
I also would like to see Sweden win solely because I want to see Janne Andersson actually smile.
Who will you be supporting in the World Cup? Who do you think you would support more – your home country, or Sweden? And what sports are you looking forward to take part in when you move to Sweden? Comment below or email me!