These are my kind of people (not ‘theirs’) so join me in supporting them by Steffan Chirazi
Today, for the first time in my life, MY England football team will compete in a major final, the European Championship. I am only partially speaking about the football here, because in many other ways, this specific England squad is also the first in my lifetime which feels like a squad that represents MY values. They take a knee in support of anti-racism and supporting the fight against black oppression. The captain has proudly worn a rainbow armband. One of the squad veterans wore rainbow boot laces. One of the young superstar forwards was single-handedly behind a campaign which embarrassed the current British government into ensuring that free school meals continued for all children (that same forward has also worked with homeless charities). They speak with media freely, there have been no displays of petulance or superstardom, and they are led by a manager who carries himself with empathy and respect wherever he goes and whatever he speaks of. Hard to imagine saying any of that about the Sven Goran Eriksson Gerrard/Lampard days now isn’t it…
We are emerging from covid19.
Confusion, inconsistency and hypocrisy is starting to run riot.
So many things have remained shut down, or under strict rules, yet Euro 2020 has circumvented it all. That’s a discussion for another time (I think it is insanity personally) but it is a fact.
Some people, well, many, are very, very annoyed about it.
We are also finding our feet in the ‘real’ Brexit world. Again, a discussion for another time (for the record I was full-remain and think Brexit is insanity) but it is a fact.
Those two facts above -added to the further fact that tomorrow’s Euro 2020 final against Italy art Wembley is the first major final/event where there will be a close to capacity crowd since covid19 ‘began’ in early 2020 makes the day a powder keg.
Emotions are already running high, and within minutes of beating Denmark, the internet (and my FB feed) were tripping over themselves to launch a chunk of vitriol or a lump of spite, miserable digs, joy-thievery of the cheapest kind. Such is modern society I suppose, where the internet and it’s trolling is seen as ‘part of the deal.’
Let me make one thing clear to you, the person reading this.
I abhor racism.
I detest homophobia.
I love Europe (I love the world actually).
I despise flag-gammons who blurt on about Brexit and Farage and ‘fuck foreigners’ and ‘our cuntry’ and who spit on Danish children and insult Danish women, I have always despised them and I have always stood up to them, from the days I’d go to England matches and find myself telling morons vomiting ‘no surrender to the IRA’ to shut the fuck up and go somewhere else if they needed to relieve themselves via their mouths.
I know the filthy imperialist history and I am ashamed of it.
Wankers like that ingrate MP who won’t watch because of the knee, or our band-wagon PM do not act in my name.
THAT is not MY England, it is not the England I think of, and it is not the England which represents me ANY MORE than Trump and MAGA-hat Trumpers are not the US.
MY England is one of tolerance.
Standing up to racism and homophobia where I can.
Recognizing everyone’s rights whatever colour they are and however they find themselves wired sexually.
Standing up against misogyny and recognizing the rights, beauty and power of women in our society.
Trying to remember -and do something for- the less unfortunate and homeless people in our society.
Enjoying a bloody good singing session at the football.
Enjoying a laugh.
Enjoying the company of my mates as we strive to win.
Celebrating victories loudly.
Enduring defeats with sadness and frustration which quickly gives way to the reality that life is life, people are people and someone has to lose just as someone has to win.
There will doubtless, sadly, be some stupidity tomorrow. This is not just the nature of life, it is going to be the net result of a nation collectively engaging in such a historic, post-Brexit, post-covid19 event. In victory or defeat I will be what I always am in person – gracious (maybe a bit chatty but gracious!), finding a smile if one needs to be dug up (hopefully it will be a case of cheek-aches on Monday) and more than ready to stand up for ANYONE who is on the receiving end of ANY poor behaviour (this is a life thing).
So if England beat Italy tomorrow and win our first major trophy as a footballing nation since before I was born, I’d like to humbly ask that you feel happy for me. Send congratulations. Recognise that I am someone who does the same in kind. Appreciate that for me, this would be an enormous event in my life, and one which would give me tremendous happiness…ooops, there I am being selfish, because I am NOT just talking about me, I am talking about the MILLIONS of decent, nice and good English people who you don’t hear about on the internet, or read about in the papers.
The first time I ever saw England live in person was in 1980, at Wembley, when Argentina came to town. I have seen them in several different places, but mostly Wembley. This is very real for me.
And when I sing ‘football’s coming home’ or ‘Vindaloo’, it is with fun, hope, joy and that glorious combination of pride and self-deprecation that many of us English have always mastered so well.
It isn’t to wind you up and it isn’t arrogance, OK?
So don’t let a few arseholes take this away from me, or the millions I mentioned.
Don’t empower or enable them.
Please recognize that joy in our country (if we win) this does not mean we feel the same about life or the world as gammon-flag-wavers or the stupid, thick minority who choose these moments to inflict misery on others.
I’d appreciate it, I really would…COME ON ENGLAND!!!!