It is not as if I really understand football. Well, I played it at school and did, believe it or not, score the odd goal or two but I was never that bothered even if it had been planted deep down into my subconscious as a game that was a part of my shared culture. I have certainly enjoyed watching it when the ball was at the feet of the great athletes of the game but I cannot really claim to have enjoyed watching the World Cup matches so far this year and now, of course, England, after a pretty lack lustre show, has gone out of the tournament.
Yesterday morning, Lewes, in Southern England, where I live, had an air of expectancy. Most people, here at least, get together in the town’s pubs preferring to watch the game in a public and community conscious way making the World Cup matches, so far, into a collective experience.
I don’t know why they walked by but a small band of bagpipers marched in front of my house before the match and the emotional pull of that primeval sound alerted me to the tenuous epic that had been unfolding – a nation weirdly expecting something out of this game of kicking a ball about a field.
As I said, I don’t really know that much about the game but even I really did not expect England to win.
Last week, when my country won an averagely played game against a less talented team, Lewes went wild. I could hear the roars of excited fans rising up from every direction and the drunken street celebrations went on into the night demonstrating one of England’s newer and less attractive qualities -drink-fuelled group hysteria – the stag or hen night writ large.
Celebrate whilst you can, I thought, you won’t be in the mood come Sunday.
It was a hot day here yesterday and I had all the windows open even though I expected to hear more of those tribal roars. No such luck – there was a ghostly hush which continued long after England went out of the tournament with a humiliating 4 – 1 defeat against Germany.
The street outside my house, so ready for a celebration, was deserted. That amusingly topical shop across the road, Phase Consultants, had its latest themed window display but there was no one looking, no one even grieving.
No more bagpipes, no more cheering – not even any public drunkenness. I have never known my town to be so quiet.
In that shop window is an England football with, wittily enough, a Wimbledon Tennis cap taking centre stage from the usual building site helmets that customarily sit here. At Wimbledon, England now has no players left, Andy Murray, let’s remember is a Scot.
Those chants of “England, England!” that echoed in these parts only days ago now sound out of place.
Or do they? There is more to this country than the disappointing England football team or our dismal tennis players. It is a great place to live and it has a lot of spirit. In fact it has a lot more charm when the majority of its population doesn’t take to the streets in drunken hysteria supporting a dream that had very little chance of coming true.
Let’s move on and enjoy the rest of the matches – celebrating the game and not some over-egged ideas of a national superiority that brings out the worst in our normally tolerant citizenship. Let’s remember now that we don’t have a national team to support, that we are, and should always see ourselves as citizens of the World with great football players from many countries brightening our English football at club level and reinforcing that shared human delight in athletic sports whether it be football or English-player-free tennis at Wimbledon.