I’m writing this the day after England managed to squeak past Denmark to make it to the European Championship final. It’s amazing how sport can create drama unlike anything else. So, with humble thanks for the indulgence for those amongst you who are untouched by this, I just wanted to write a few words. It’ll distract me from gnawing at my fingernails for a while longer.
Following a sports team can be something of a curse – I am a Dolphins fan, after all. However, with football, and international football in particular, there’s a chance that following your team – England, in my case – can offer moments of the most wonderful, ecstatic and memorable kind that you’ll have the detail of them permanently etched into your mind. The difference is the community of experience, and the rarity of them.
Following the England team, over decades, has proved a difficult one. A narrative has sprung up around the team of “glorious failure” – those “so close” moments that have become fodder for teary montages on the television just before we brace ourselves for yet another one. Injustice or gallant loss, either way, I have countless “I was there when…” moments where the room falls silent, the TV is switched off, and the hope and enthusiasm of a few hours previous is forgotten about for another couple of years.
Sport is described as the great unifier. This year, more than ever, I can see what that means. The team is a wonderful one for reasons far beyond their sporting talents. It represents many of the best things in a fairly fractured society – sensible, supportive and thoughtful, and it is one that is easy to support.
England may well lose on Sunday, but, whatever happens, I’ll not forget these few weeks, and the wonderful, precious memories that they have given us, at a time when we all could do with something positive to get behind. I hope wherever you are, there is something for you to get excited about, too.
(Edit: They lost. Ah well, a few more “years of hurt” to add to the pile…!)