England, you're making it hard to love you

4:20 pm on 28 June 2016

First Person - As far as moral weakness goes, my lifelong support for the English football team seems a benign failing.

It flares only every second year or so and the main symptoms - blind hope rapidly developing into hopelessness - quickly fade.

That is the problem. Like raising a toddler, you would swear off it for life if you couldn't suppress the memory of last time (which, by the way, was their lacklustre exit from the World Cup in Brazil two years ago).

Today, however, is a low point that will take some forgetting. England have been frozen and spat out by Iceland in a national day of sporting shame.

England's fans are disappointed after the football match between Iceland and England at the Champ-de-Mars fan zone in Paris on 27 June 2016.

A disappointed supporter slumps to the ground at the Champ-de-Mars fan zone in Paris. Photo: AFP

This morning, I had set myself confidently in front of the widescreen, coffee in one hand, MY SKY remote in the other. I imagined myself replaying all the goals we were sure to score against these minnows.

The match started well with a soft penalty in the fourth minute. England then inexplicably careered off track, like a sleek automobile whose tires have popped at the first bend, which is then passed by an energetic guy on a pushbike.

A text from a friend summed it up: "Happy for Iceland but England's tactics dire. You can't faff around in tournaments."

Towards the end of the game my daughter saw my stricken face and asked what was wrong. She then saw the score, laughed and said, "What a joke."

She's right. My love of the England football team is comical and frustrating and also lifelong and enduring.

I'm English-born but Kiwi to the core. Apart from this small, stubborn part of me that bleeds English blood.

The England team are among the biggest underachievers in world sport. But they are my underachievers.

Even the best memory they have given me - the semi-final World Cup clash with Germany in 1990 - ended in defeat.

The real source of unreciprocated, unrewarded and everlasting fan love is not the team you choose, but the team that chooses you.

* Paul Thompson is an English-born Kiwi and lifelong football fan, who happens to be RNZ's CEO.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs