Being one of those that, ‘only watches the England matches,’ I am probably not best placed to pass any kind of judgement. However, it is hard not to get swept up and share the sentiment that footballers cut rather a different dash in 2021.
As a child I remember the fast balls, cars, cash and ‘wags.’ All washed down with copious amounts of booze, babes and greasy press coverage.
What we see now is very, very different. Those white shirts spark a fresh joy that feels clean for all ages, and an influence that is inherently good, infectious and impressive. A goal scored on the pitch is now matched off the pitch, by the players being named seemingly one by one, on the Queen’s Honours list for services in their communities. This has become so much more than football and the ultimate pandemic antidote that we want to wash down in great big joyful gulps.
If you need any help to push all this cerebral percentage sport that we now see almost everywhere, down into the depths of that beating red organ in your chest, watch Mason Mount give his shirt to a little girl waving to get his attention after the match on Wednesday night.
If that doesn’t get you then tune into Radio 4’s ‘Profile’ on Raheem Sterling, who’s father was shot dead when he was 2 years old. Listen to how his mother brought him and his sister to London for a ‘better life,’ and his commitment to training, catching three buses every afternoon and returning at 11pm each night. Hear how badly he was treated by fans and how doggedly he came through it. It is 14 minutes of your life you won’t regret giving up.
Learning of a grown man sobbing this week as the NHS covid-app removed his ticket to the Final in one intrusive ping, I wanted to cry myself, for that is one moment that cannot be rolled over to next year like our lamented holidays.
The anguish of a loss tonight will be sharp indeed. If the unthinkable happens, I will focus on the words of Winston Churchill, for it will be a moment for only the biggest of statements.
‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’