Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Oral Tracey | World Cup flag mania

Published:Monday | June 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A vendor on Washington Boulevard in St Andrew on June 4, selling flags of countries competing in the FIFA World Cup.

The 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup football finals is less than one week old, but already the action has been as scintillating as it has been spectacular. The World Cup fever itself is spreading in epidemic proportions across the entire world. From a Jamaican perspective, no World Cup tournament in recent times has given rise to the proliferation of national flags of various countries being on display across the length and breadth of the island as this one.

The selling of flags of the main contenders - Argentina, Germany, Brazil, France, Spain and even England - has mushroomed into a thriving business for local vendors. Taxis, minibuses, trucks, private cars, even bikes and bicycles have flags attached and fluttering in the Jamaican wind, with the bright colours illuminated by the summer sunshine.

The flag mania is by no means exclusive to vehicular traffic; offices and workplaces have also fallen victim to the World Cup fever, with flags and other paraphernalia strategically placed on many desks in several offices. I myself am caught in possession of a couple of flags of the team I support, Brazil. One was delivered to me as a gift, and the other was and craftily sold to me by a vendor at a traffic light who admonished me as a known Brazil fan, with no flag on display. After that lecture, I had no choice but to patronise him.

There is a tinge of sadness in the underlying reality that the proliferation of foreign flags, comes at the expense of our own Jamaican flags, which have been evidently vanquished and vanished by the Reggae Boyz's failure to qualify for the World Cup. I remember vividly that in the period preceding Jamaica's historic qualification for the 1998 finals in France, the Jamaican flag was hardly visible except on government buildings and at national sporting and cultural events. The United States of America and the British flags were much more prominent in day-to-day Jamaica as headgear fashion, and attached to cars, bicycles - other vehicular traffic, even as murals at central points across many communities.




The France 1998 qualification changed all that, engendering a binge of nationalism as was evidenced by the Jamaican flag and the Jamaican flags colours replacing the foreign colours and becoming much more acceptable and fashionable. In the ensuing years, the advent of Usain Bolt and that golden generation of Jamaican sprinters reignited the flames of patriotism with their exploits on the Olympic and World Championships stages. With the retirement of Bolt, and France 1998 now 20 years on, there is a clear and present danger of our expressed love of Jamaica, getting lost again in the rush to adopt other countries and other World Cup teams.

It is my emerging fear that Jamaicans will quickly fall back into the space where we are less proud and less confident in ourselves not just on the football field, but in ourselves as a people. This would be displayed by a less passionate embrace of our symbols and the outward show of admiration of our country.

Even as we continue to be consumed by the drama and intrigue of the spectacular football action in Russia 2018, as Jamaican football fans, and as Jamaicans generally, we need to reinvest in our national identity. If it means qualifying for the World Cup finals again, then that is what we need to do.