Flying England's flag: What does this World cup mean to Asians?

Wednesday 11th July 2018 09:04 EDT

England's football victory in the Quarter final, was celebrated country-wide with much pomp and gaiety. The excitement started brewing when England won in the knock-out stage against Colombia. After that came the glorious victory on Saturday against Sweden, when we came across many Asians supporting England, walking around the streets with the English (St George's) flag, some wrapped it around their back, neck, wearing matching hats, some even showing off England's jersey. Many shopkeepers had the flag flying on their doors, residents had it hoisted on their homes, out of the windows, balcony and even on their cars.

England football manager Gareth Southgate said his diverse World Cup team represents England's "modern identity", and his players have a chance to affect something "bigger than football". As the St George's flag remained hoisted across the country, Asian Voice asked the diaspora to tell us their stories about what it means to feel English, and fly the flag, ahead of England's clash with Croatia.

Rishi Mariappan from Hammersmith speaking to the newsweekly said, “I arrived in this country in 2004. I have studied and worked here, I am British and I am proud to support our team. Why not? England is now home. And the team represents the modern Britain- with soms of so many immigrants”

Arun Iyenger from Harringay said, “I was born in this country. Who else will I support?”

Shashikant Patel who runs 'Meet and Deep' newsagents in Twickenham has been wearing a shirt with the English flag on it, and cheering for England, shaking hands with passerbys also rooting for the country's big win. He said, “It is coming home”. His sons Deepen Patel, Meeten Patel and wife Pallavi Patel also joined him to cheer on social media.

Similarly Jiwan Mangat who is a Heating and plumbing shop owner from Ilford, told the BBC, "I'm excited for the game. We will watch in our shop with our customers and friends.

"I was born in India and am Sikh - but I live in England and I am English. We've put the St George's flag on the shop for sporting events for 30 years. The flag represents the Queen. You have to respect the Queen.

“When I came here, I had no work and no language but this country gave me a chance. Our children were born here and studied here.”

Imran Asghar a DIY shop owner from Wanstead reportedly said, "I see myself as English - I was born in the East End of London after all. My England flag means a lot to me. I'm the only retailer on the whole high street that has the England flag up here. As a British Asian, I think it's important for us to be able to integrate and show we can live within the culture here too.

"I'm 35 now - go back 25 years ago and it was a different situation in terms of racism. I do feel that we are living in a more tolerant world overall now. But we're still waiting for that complete acceptance. I would love to see a British Asian breaking through into the England team one day soon - that's the next step."

But all is not glorious, many Asians faced racial slurs, after they were seen flying the English flag. Hasan Patel took the twitter to say, “Had a very unpleasant moment when a group of white men came over to me and my friend saying that we should take off our England flags since 'we are not English'. Mind you, I was born here. It's my flag as much as it is yours.”

Reacting to this incident, Alpa Seth said, “Though I am British and born in London, I found every excuse not to support the English team partly because I was never allowed to be English being brown. The way government of the day behaves, is unacceptable but the team itself is mostly children of immigrants, so now I am very enthusiastic about their success.”

Rupa Sengupta said, “You can't win against this zealots. If you dont cheer for England living here, then they say you are not integrated enough. And if you do, you are a foreigner and this is not your country.”

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