England: Football & Hauntology

Adrian de León
4 min readJul 12, 2021
Photo by Bruno Figueiredo on Unsplash

England in 2021 is a nation and a society submerged by Hauntology.

A term first coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida, Hauntology is a concept which focuses on the reappearance, or stubborn resistance, of elements from the past in the reality of the present.

Most recently it has been applied to cultural phenomena — music and art — by writers, such as Mark Fisher. Hauntology in this instance refers to cultural artefacts which are preoccupied with a “temporal disjunction”, a “nostalgia for lost futures”, and “the persistence of the past”.

I now wish to expand the tidal remit of Hauntology to include the nation’s greatest export: football. The three concepts mentioned above; temporal disjunction, nostalgia for lost futures, and the persistence of the past, were evident throughout England’s Euro tournament experience.

The end result, almost predictable in its predictability, went against the wishes of the country. The loss to Italy was a schism to the victorious aspirations, to the divine right of seeing football “coming home”, and to the glimmer of hope that was much needed after so many years of hurt (in sport and in society as a whole).

There was much delusion and anger at the final whistle from a populace who expected so much more. It made me think that there may be slight parallels to the post-colonial unravelling of the British Empire. A dwindling of power, an overt manifestation of powerlessness; a Suez canal of the sporting world.

History books will say that England was unable to beat Italy, my memory will note that we were unable to beat our past. We were haunted by the ghosts of yesterday and crippled by the fear of a lost future.

The England football team of 2021 went into a tournament originally scheduled for 2020; due to marketing constraints, the tournament organisers, UEFA, were unable (unwilling) to change the advertising and branding for the tournament to reflect that we were now in 2021.

“2020” was plastered across the advertising boards, the TV channels, and in the lexicon surrounding the tournament. We found ourselves in a marketing and branding hyperreality; prisoners of capitalism’s anachronistic fetishism. The past was haunting us from the onset.

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