It can be argued we are all guilty, to varying degree, of ‘cultural appropriation’. It is a term that has come to prominence in recent years, sometimes justifiably, but often not, and is used to describe people who adopt other cultures' customs, practices, and ideas ­— unacknowledged ­— and embrace them as their own.

There are differing levels of ‘appropriation’. At one extreme, theft of the aboriginal land by the colonists could be seen to be more a mass pillage of a people, whereas a sports team re-enacting the ‘Haka’, is little more than a nod to greatness. On the one hand we are told that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, yet on the other we are told we should not embrace others' cultures, fashions or traditions as it is an insensitive theft. Yet we are all guilty as charged: John Logie Baird, in my hometown of Hastings, above what is now a hi-fi shop, transmitted the first television picture on October 25, 1925. Now I like to claim him as ‘one of my own’ despite his Scottish ancestry. How ridiculous would it sound if I kicked up a fuss that us Hastonians had had our culture appropriated? How dare the Americans, and the Aussies and every other nation in the world, take solace from wearing their underwear as they sup on a can and watch Bargain Hunt of an evening. Do we then try to take back the car, washing machine or any other life-changing innovation that is now used by all and sundry? Or do we accept it, as we should, in good grace, and feel a warmth that those people, in that time, were so good that others now feel the need to take a bit of it as their own in order to flatter our forefathers.

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Yet there is another appropriation that personally upsets me, and that’s ‘class’. Although to outward appearances, what with me being a teacher and all in a comfortable semi in the shires, others may view me as middle class, I view myself, as many of us do, as working class. As part of that, we have an in-built passion for football. Like millions before me, I would arrive home from school every day, get my kit on and play until it was pitch black. It would be tennis balls at break and lunchtime, a club on the weekend and then, when I got too old to play, bar a Tuesday night five-a-side kickabout with other ageing children, I would purchase a season ticket to the mighty Barnet FC, and attend other games as and when, from Barcelona at the Nou Camp to Rushden and Diamonds at Nene Park.

It is only recently that I started to understand those who claim cultural appropriation, however. When you have invested as much of your being, and your soul, into an entity (in this case football), for others to jump on the bandwagon and clutch the coattails after years of misery, and cold, and abuse and desperation, does make you feel bitter, twisted, and hijacked, and that is exactly where I was camped out after the recent Euros.

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Johnson, Sunak and Starmer, to name but three, have appropriated my class and I’m not impressed. Where were they in early January as we sat frozen in the stands watching lower league players go through the motions to afford us a 0-0 draw? Were they at the relegation decider in Northampton when we went non-league? Or at the second round of the FA Cup when a last-minute penalty sent us crashing out? They were nowhere, only coming to the party when there was some PR to be had and soundbites to be spoken. The sight of our Prime Minister standing in Wembley with a hastily accrued England jersey over his shirt and tie filled me with sadness. The same goes for Starmer sitting in strangely empty pub as he clenched his first at the sight of another England goal hitting the back of the net?

Yes, I know I should let it go, but I really can’t. After 48 years of being covered in mud and muck and coming so close to seeing my national team finally winning a tournament, to have it hijacked by the rugger buggers is truly beyond the pale and leaves me wondering how to even up the score. Maybe I'll buy me some £800 rolls of wallpaper and put it on expenses, as I seek a pig carcass and enter a world that like theirs with ours, I know little about, and care even less for.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher