“Supporting India does not mean we are any less English”

Rupanjana Dutta Wednesday 03rd July 2019 10:35 EDT

The debate between British Asians supporting the country of origin versus their country of birth, since 1990 when Lord Norman Tebbit, a politician from the Conservative party, controversially suggested that Asian immigrants and their children had not truly integrated in Britain until they supported the England cricket team ahead of their country of origin. As we went to press, India faced Bangladesh at Edgbaston, Birmingham, both nations started their match with their national anthems, written by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. On Sunday as England met India on the grounds of Birmingham, Indian patriots claimed India lost to England 'purposefully' to indirectly defeat Pakistan, who would have an advantageous position if England lost.

Akash 17, with father Amit 47, and grandfather Kishor 75, went to watch England playing India. While Kishor was born and raised in India, Amit came to the UK when he was 5, while Akash was born in Bristol. But all of them supported India, cheering in blue jersey with tricolour flags. Speaking to Asian Voice, Akash said, “I was born here. England is my motherland. But British Indians growing up in this country don't associate with cricket that much. For us football is our national game. Many of us who support Asian teams like India and Pakistan in cricket, we support England in every other sport that we follow. Cricket is not a game for the middle class in the UK”

A survey by ComRes and BBC Asian Network found that 77.19% of British Asians born in the UK support the home nations in international football tournaments.

Kishor told the newsweekly, “Growing up I have seen discrimination and racism at its peak. We were reminded everyday how we were never part of this country. So it is natural to associate ourselves with the Indian culture that brought our community together against perpetrators.”

According to the International Cricket Council, over 80% of World Cup tickets have been bought by people who live in England, but less than half by people who actually support the England team, reported the BBC. Moreover while cricket is played in every street and corner of India, in England it is seen as a sport for the 'elite' - with 43% of men playing international cricket for England going to private school, according to a report by the Sutton Trust and Social Mobility Commission.

Aditya Mazumdar, 16, who was born and brought up in London said, “Cheering for India has nothing to do with not being English. I am as English as our neighbour Tom. But cricket is a household game among Indians, and I have grown up seeing Indian cricket. Attachment to Indian team is because of similar culture and background. Nowadays IPL also has English players playing. It is a global game, boundaries have faded. Who watches county cricket in the UK other than elites?”

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