Euro Cup 2016 Catherine Ivill- AMA/Getty Images

Football, Brexit, and Us

Of the 24 teams that qualified for this year’s UEFA European Cup tournament, only one came from Germany, but three came from the UK: England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Brexit vote is less surprising when one understands why, for both fans and citizens, less is often more.

CAMBRIDGE – Of the 24 teams that qualified for this year’s UEFA European Cup football (soccer) tournament, only one came from Germany. Three came from the United Kingdom: England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. That seems rather odd. After all, East and West Germans reunited only in 1991, and Bavarians united with Prussians only in 1871, whereas the annexations/unions of Ireland, Wales, and Scotland to the Kingdom of England go back to 1177, 1542, and 1707, respectively.

So why do Thuringians, Saxons, and Swabians root for the same German team, while UK citizens root for so many? (Scotland and even Gibraltar have their own teams as well.) Wouldn’t they have a stronger team if they chose the best players to represent them all?

Presumably, British citizens understand this, but they prefer to have their own national teams rather than a stronger UK team – even if this means losing to tiny Iceland. After all, if it is only about the strongest team, you might as well root for Barcelona. For a team to represent “us,” it somehow has to be us.

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