How football rescued the English flag

By Raúl Bobé

London, Jun 18 (EFE).- The English flag spent years in the shadow of the Union Jack, relegated to the realms of nationalist politics, until it was saved during Euro 1996.

Nowadays, the iconic red Saint George’s Cross on a white field flies proudly from houses up and down the nation.

There are several theories as to how England came to adopt the flag, but one of the most commonly-told is that Richard the Lionheart chose it in the late 12th century so that English vessels would benefit from the protection of the Republic of Genoa, which used the ensignia, when sailing in the Mediterranean.

Over the years, and with the creation of the Union Jack as a symbol of the United Kingdom, the English flag slid into obscurity. For a period, it became synonymous with far-right movements, for whom it represented “English purity.”

Vexillologist Graham Bartram told Efe that this notion was ridiculous given the fact that not only is St. George the patron of other regions like Catalonia, but that he was not even English — he was born in what is now Turkey.

There is also no evidence that he ever stepped foot in England.

Cast an eye back to the 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany at Wembley, and we can see a crowd fluttering with Union Jacks.

It remained this way for years. Then, England and Scotland both made the Euros.

As luck would have it, the two UK nations came up against each other in a group stage clash at Wembley, meaning that England fans could hardly wave the Union Jack, which also incorporates the Scottish Saltire. The only option, therefore, was to dig out St. George’s Cross.

A quarter of a century later, England are set to host Scotland in the Euros once again, their first post-Brexit encounter.

During Friday’s game, two flags will be on display in the crowd — the red and white St. George’s Cross and the blue and white Saltire of Scotland. EFE


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