My One and Only Piece about the Euros

You have to be honest: it is the grinding inevitability that is so galling.  Our position as world-class gallant losers cemented once again.  Oh well, if it’s going to take another fifty-five years until we do this all again, at least I won’t be here for it – although, if I am, I will just about have recovered.  As a life-long football fan and lover of my country (although not always my countrymen) I should by now have grown used to this torture: that everything ends in disappointment sooner or later.  Let’s be honest: we all knew that Italy were the better team, but we believed, really believed, that it didn’t matter.  We had destiny on our side (not to mention Baddiel, Skinner and Neil Diamond).  In actual fact, even if they’d have given additional marks for ‘Anthem Singing’ we’d have lost.  Watching the Italian team sing their anthem is joyful.  We Brits feel obliged to sing the anthem solemnly – loudly – but reverentially.  Gusto is, I believe, an Italian word…

It has become a national trait: play brilliantly, get ahead, freeze with the realisation of what we have just done, die a little.  Somehow English teams, in all sports, are viewed as arrogant, when what we are is, in fact, fragile.  People of my age might remember the ‘mantles’ that used to be a necessary component of gas lights in caravans: they gave out a brilliant white light, until you touched them when they collapsed as though made out of talcum powder.  English confidence is a brittle beast.  It can’t help that we live on a tiny island of three nations, of which the other two despise us.  Ask most Scots who they would want to win and they would answer ABE (Anyone But England).  On Sunday, Scotland was populated by 5.5 million Italians.  Our Welsh neighbours are similarly disposed towards us.  The answers, I suppose, must lie in our history – shared, presumably with France, Germany and Ireland amongst a plethora of others – who would support the Invading Hordes of Betelgeuse if they were playing England.  I’m sure we had a few of our American chums supporting us – although how many chose to watch a European competition shown, presumably (and if at all) in the middle of the night I cannot imagine.  Also, I seem to remember reading that there are more Irish people in the US than in Ireland and those of Italian descent not far behind, so I’m guessing we probably didn’t feel the waves of support washing across the ocean anyway.

The problem is, we have a ‘history’ – seldom a good one – with most of the rest of the world, and history, it appears, is not easily forgiven.  Imagine being beaten up in the school playground because of something your great, great, great, grandfather once did.  Try to imagine how much weight an apology would carry: I apologise for the actions of all of my countrymen between 1558 and 1980.  Here, have my Snickers Bar as reparation is not going to cut it, is it?  It is a burden that all English people carry, and one that we cannot shed.

…And then I read that a number of the England players (You can guess which ones.  I’ll give you a clue: they are not white-skinned.) have been subjected to all sorts of abhorrent abuse on social media since our loss – presumably from the people who are currently doing for the Flag of St George what they previously did for the Union Jack e.g. making it reviled throughout the world – and I think, you know what, I now get what the rest of the world sees in us.  You’ve all seen these ‘people’ when they get caught (not often) and they appear gloating on the TV News: the boo’ers of ‘taking the knee’; the jeerers of other National Anthems; the denouncers of different; the haters; the flower of English manhood (and they always are men) huh?  And I realise that this young, diverse and focussed group of football players, who made it all the way to the final and played brilliantly along the way, is something to really celebrate.  They represent the England I want to be part of, and bugger the penalties…