I’m the most fair weather football fan on earth and i’ll openly admit that. I don’t hate football. I can easily watch Newcastle, or England play and keep a side eye on what West Brom are up to. Of course it helps to be in a bar on a Greek Island with free flowing retsina, but COVID has made sure that hasn’t happened in a while. It goes without saying that Euro 2020 will be a tournament that goes down in history for various reasons, particularly in England and after the final the other weekend, there were thoughts racing round my head which I felt I needed to get write down and share.
I guess this was sparked by the fact that a few primary schools were saying they were happy for kids to come in later the morning after the final, should they want to stay up and watch it, but encouraged parents to use it as a learning opportunity. So it made me wonder what the whole tournament had taught me.
First of all, let’s talk about sportsmanship. Dave and I were watching live when Christian Eriksen suffered a heart attack on the pitch and it was horrific to see. At one point we genuinely thought we might be watching someone die. The fact that he has recovered is obviously amazing news and it needs to be said that the sportsmanship on that afternoon was exemplary; from his team mates who surrounded him to protect his dignity, his team captain who consoled his distraught partner, and the fans from the opposing team who chanted his name. I hope this is what children are being taught about.
Then fast forward to the Euro 2020 final. It was incredible to see the excitement throughout the country and me, being the ultimate bandwagon jumper, was ready for it. I’d say I was realistic rather than optimistic, Italy had played well up to this point and knew it would be a fight. But we had a young team and Jack Grealish’s calves and beautiful boyband hair on our side.
22 players stood on that pitch all of the understanding that only 11 of them were going to win. And, back to that sportsmanship thing, you can’t really be a professional athlete and have the attitude that you’re only going to compete if you’re going to win (I hope you’re reading this Ronaldo). That’s not how competition works. It’s also easy when things don’t go your way, to try and lay blame at somebody’s door or call out what are deemed as poor decisions. And here’s the thing; a decision, by and large, is something made with the best of your knowledge and all the information you have available at the time. And very often what are labelled as poor decisions, are actually a result of poor outcomes. If those who missed their penalties, scored, it wouldn’t have been a poor decision to add them to the penalty line up.
So, here’s what I think I took away most from the Euro 2020 competition; England didn’t win because Gareth Southgate got it wrong, or because Rashford, Sancho and Saka missed their penalties, it’s not because you weren’t wearing your lucky pants and it’s not because I didn’t have chance to give Jack Grealish a good luck kiss before the match. England didn’t win because Italy played ever so slightly better football. And that’s the way life goes sometimes
I would also like to say that I learnt that in terms of systemic, generational racism in this country, we still have a long, long way to go, but sadly I think I already knew that.