Yes, someone said that. And not a crank either, or at least not the angry living-in-his-mother’s-basement crank you meet on the internet. His brief article concludes, “The England team is the symbolic and literal enemy of truth, beauty, and goodness. Its defeat and Italy’s victory is a great and glorious event.”
On a very conservative website called “Intellectual Takeout,” Serbian-American writer Srđa Trifković explains the result of the UEFA championship. It was a victory of Italian virtue over English decadence.
Trifković is not a nobody. He’s the longtime foreign editor of the American magazine Chronicles, and has a doctorate in modern history from the University of Southampton. He has (according to his Wikipedia page) written for The Times of London and appeared on the BBC. The website, associated with Chronicles, sits in maybe the third tier of conservative political publishing.
As an American, I’m a bit bemused by this burst of Italophilia mixed with Anglophobia. It’s hard to see how England’s team did anything to deserve such contempt, besides almost beating his favored Italians. He is ranting, but it’s a serious rant. I’ve read enough of him to say that he means to provoke, but he also believes it.
“First and foremost,” Trifković declares, “the winning Italian team was almost entirely composed of those who are Italian by blood and heritage. … This is a band of true brothers, the Fratelli d’Italia (shown here celebrating on the way back to Rome). These are real men — no LGBTQ+ types here — who cherish the same native soil which has produced one of the greatest civilizations known to mankind.”
Every team in the world that wins a championship looks like a band of brothers no matter how different they are, because they won. Winning is a powerful if temporary glue. How the writer knows none of the Italian players is G, B, T, or Q, or any of the +s, is a question. Being very, very good at football does not prove a man heterosexual.
Trifković continues: “Millions of Italians are well aware that the true strength of their team is in its monolithic monoculturality. It is unabashedly monoethnic, eminently masculine in its players’ appearance and behavior, and viscerally patriotic. (Compare and contrast this team with France’s utterly failed squad: if ‘diversity is strength,’ then France should have won the championship.)”
How exactly does Italy’s team’s being monocultural and monoethnic translate into being a championship football team? How does this work? The writer does not seem to have thought this through.
Surely other nations fielded such teams as well, and they either didn’t make the tournament at all or didn’t do well. So the reason Italy won the cup can’t be that.
Might Italy’s being the fourth largest country in Europe with the fourth largest economy have something to do with it? Its number of high level professional football teams playing each other and sharpening their players’ skills? Its extensive youth leagues for developing players? Its national training facilities?
Italy’s done this before. It’s not a surprise. Sometimes teams just come together right. Tiny little Croatia played for the World Cup just two years ago. In the 2016 European championship, even tinier Wales came in third. It happens.
And did France lose this time because they had a diverse group of players? One wouldn’t think so. Their national team is pretty much the same one that’s the defending World Cup champions. Since France did win a championship, maybe diversity is strength.
In any case, we can find a lot of better explanations for Italy winning the championship than their team being made up of manly pure-blooded straight Italian nationalists.
Trifković despises the English team so much because he takes it as a symbol of a greater English failure — essentially the nation’s failure to be like Italy, at least the Italy of his imagination.
He complains that the players took a knee before games to protest racism. And that makes them not only wicked but a symbol of wickedness. That’s it for the evidence. “That team adequately represents not just Albion’s civilizational decrepitude, but also the virus of self-hate which now emanates from the global Anglosphere.”
The team’s manager, Gareth Southgate, spoke impressively about the team doing this as a team. “I think those people should put themselves in the shoes of those young players and how that must feel. If that was their children, if they’re old enough to have children, how would they feel about their kids being in that sort of situation?” He said this in the article to which Trifković links. One might disagree with the gesture, and still respect the young players’ sincerity and the manager’s sympathy. But Trifković feels no such generous emotions.
In any case, didn’t that “literal enemy of truth, beauty, and goodness” come very, very close to winning? Weren’t they generally considered the better team? If winning is a sign of virtue, as he suggests, England’s making its way to the final game and losing on the last kick of the shootout must be a sign of considerable virtue.
And isn’t this very, very good English team not so “monoethnic”? Raheem Sterling, for example, pictured above with his manager, was born in Jamaica and moved to England with his widowed mother when he was five. By Trifković’s own argument, diversity is a strength. You get a superstar like Sterling.
The article’s a rant by an ideologically marginal writer, writing in a marginal publication. I write mostly because he annoyed me. But he does represent a large section of American conservatism, who think as he does. His rant not just a rant. It’s an impassioned if slightly crackers statement of a common worldview.
There is one significant omission in Trifković’s rant. A surprising one. He does not mention religion at all. Writing about an Italian team, you might assume at least some cultural Catholicism, absorbed through the way the Church formed their culture. I don’t think Trifković’s cares about religion, not as much as he cares about blood.
David Mills is the Senior Editor (US) of The Catholic Herald. His previous article for the home page was Free the Latin Mass, for the good of the Church and the people who need it. His previous article for Chapter House was Why Men Leave Their Dying Wives. He is also the “Last Things” columnist for the New Oxford Review.
Photo credits: England’s coach Gareth Southgate embracing forward Raheem Sterling after the loss (Paul Ellis/pool/AFP); Italy’s players holding the cup just before a ceremony at the prime minister’s office (Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images); Harry Kane and other players applauding their fans after the loss (Laurence Griffiths/pool/AFP via Getty Images); England’s goalkeeper Jordan Pickford celebrates after making a save in the shootout (Carl Recine/pool/AFP via Getty Images).
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
Having been unable to sell in churches for well over a year due to the pandemic, we are now inviting readers to support the Herald by investing in our future. We have been a bold and influential voice in the church since 1888, standing up for traditional Catholic culture and values.
Please join us on our 130 year mission by supporting us. We are raising £250,000 to safeguard the Herald as a world-leading voice in Catholic journalism and teaching. For more information from our chairman on contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund, click here
Donors giving £500 or more will automatically become sponsor patrons of the Herald. This includes two complimentary print/digital gift subscriptions, invitations to Patron events, pilgrimages and dinners, and 6 gift subscriptions sent to priests, seminaries, Catholic schools, religious care homes and prison and university chaplaincies. Click here for more information on becoming a Patron Sponsor. Click here for more information about contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund