In England the World Cup is like the Olympics, the World Series, and the Super Bowl all rolled up into one red and white beer-stained bundle. For the past two weeks, I’ve had the unique pleasure of documenting the England World Cup experience firsthand, from the Spirit-of-’66 enthusiasm before the first match to the hopelessness of today. If England loses to Slovenia, it’ll be the first time they’ve been knocked out in the first round since 1958, a full eight years before they last won the World Cup.
Apparently World Cup merchandise accounts for a £168 million boost to the UK economy (possibly offset by the over half of English employees taking unauthorized time off to watch matches.) Walking around Plymouth city center, it’s almost harder to find a store without World Cup-dominated windows. SportsDirect.com, a cut-price sports apparel retail chain, has stocked up on every sort of England-related gear, including the ubiquitous car flags, T-shirts with the face of “Don Fabio” (Capello, England’s coach), and “If You Play for England, I’m Single” shirts for the ladies; the England chants on repeat make the shopping experience only slightly less painful than listening to vuvuzelas.