Now that the dust has settled, I can say that I was the one who didn’t watch it. On Sunday night rather than sitting in front of the football, I went to bed. I couldn’t stand the tension. I think some of it was the hype and hubris that surrounded the team as it progressed through the tournament but some was the feeling of inevitability that it would all go to penalties. That is such a cruel way to end a football match and In the end I was proved right.
England’s journey through the Euros was interesting. At first I found the style of play to be dull and conservative (with a small c). The early matches were also tarnished by the booing of the players as they took the knee and the jeering of the other team’s national anthems.
Yet as the games went on and it looked increasingly likely that England would do well, there was a definite shift in the political interest. Having accused the players of gesture politics and defending the right of spectators to boo, the government’s position swung round to one of unquestioning support and positioning the team as ambassadors for the new global Britain.
The sight of the Prime MInister in a football shirt and standing on an enormous flag of St George outside Downing Street were laughably opportunist and straight out of his playbook. I think he must have forgotten that he is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and not just England.
How the worm has turned. The images from London on that Sunday of baying, drunken hoards, the poor stewardship and policing of the area around Wmbley and the dreadful racist abuse that some of the players suffered have left a very sour taste in people’s mouths.
The footballers have been advised to stick to football rather than politics yet we should be under no illusion that sport is not political. If any sports person plays for their nation and sings the national anthem then it is a political event. The truth these days however, is whatever the government says.
Still, there is a lot more sport to look forward to this summer, especially with the Tokyo Olympics. I understand that two new events have been added to the schedule, specifically for our political class. Surely England will be able to excel at the 100m backtrack or bandwagon jumping.
Gold medals all round!