Oh England, my lionhearts*

I dreaded today. I dreaded a familiar feeling of disappointment and let-down, the longing for a new season to start so that with luck some of the grime of failure could be wiped away by a good season for my team. I dreaded a day trying to avoid belligerence and bitterness about what should clearly have been a red card (#Chiellini) and regrets at what the story could’ve been. A day of trying to stop myself from blaming things, an unavoidable time of feeling tainted by failure.

Turns out I don’t feel any of that. The ending of this tournament has felt different to all the others. 

The loss hurts. But the tournament leading ups to it was up-lifting, this team were inspiring, the way they played, most of the time (#Scotland) was a joy. Taking the knee was more than all of that – it challenged and changed the narrative in this country. It created a hopeful light in the centre of the sour fog of nationalism, Brexitism, exceptionalism and fear. Though professional athletes will naturally demand only the very best from themselves, ‘real’ football fans don’t have to be only inspired by total victory. 

The way they supported each other on the pitch in victory and defeat is a model for all. Taking the knee is the model of how to support everyone outside the team too – and, if you resent that support, doubtless because you feel you don’t need it, in a way you are the one who needs it the most. The racists targeting the players are predictable and as disgusting as ever, and if I weren’t white perhaps I wouldn’t be able to feel what I do, which is hope that they are the losers. They are the losers. 

This team, staff and players, are exceptional to me. They brought decency home and that is a wonderful achievement. I don’t doubt that elements of our press will drag the gutters until they find a way to besmirch such sentiments but I am a believer, and a hopeful one. 

I am proud of this England team. I am uplifted by them. 


*Not that I expect the readership, but I thought that quoting Kate Bush would give the anti-wokists an extra dollop of spice for getting a real sour churn going in their bellies about how women don’t know anything about football. Take it away, lads, have a slow dance on me.

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