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  • Eddie Hewitt

Celebrating not winning

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

The latest English fiasco? Or just another one of those things we aren’t very good at? The latest being penalties. Again. This time just two kicks away from glory! Predictable, maybe. But what a missed opportunity, and such a shame.

Oops, we did it again. And again. And again.

And yet, in some ways, losing the final was a huge relief. Gareth Southgate won't agree with me on this, but the repercussions from winning the tournament would have been unbearable. The glory would instantly have been hijacked by those in high places who have previously besmirched the reputations of players standing up for social justice. Those same politicians who have previously shown no genuine goodwill whatsoever towards either the team or the country.

In contrast, there has been much to be proud of in England's performances and behaviour throughout the tournament. Southgate has seen things positively, and has rightly summed up the England squad's contribution in a good way:

“We have been a beacon of light in bringing people together, in people being able to relate to the national team, and the national team stands for everybody and so that togetherness has to continue.”

The manager and the players have been brilliant in this way. But Gareth Southgate is not the leader of the nation, and the squad can only do so much off the field.

Comparing Southgate with those who have responsibilities in Westminster, Gary Neville reflected during the tournament:

“The standard of leaders in this country the past couple of years has been poor, looking at that man [Southgate], he’s everything a leader should be, respectful, humble, he tells the truth.”

Our Leader

True again. But Southgate looks after English football, not the country at large. He manages a bunch of blokes who kick a ball for a living, not elected politicians responsible for making and upholding the law. Society at large comes under the remit of the blond mop and his failing cabinet. And since we’re mixing sport and politics, let me put it like this:

Boris Johnson did not deserve an England win. Priti Patel did not deserve a win. Maggie Thatcher. Winston Churchill. You politicians took a hell of a beating. But Gareth Southgate deserved better. The England team deserved better. Not the cup. That was won fairly and squarely by Italy. But unconditional support and equal treatment for all involved.

The English nation did not deserve a trophy. This is a nation that voted to turn its back on its continent. Some may have merely wanted to give the establishment a kicking, but the end result was the same. We kicked ourselves out of Europe. Kicked the Europeans too as we made our way out. Isolated ourselves, made things worse for ourselves and our continental neighbours.

And then we voted again, the next time in a general election, for an idiot and a Government that hastened to deliver some version of what the country had so foolishly asked for. So, collectively speaking, we got the result, the PM, the isolation, the social division we deserved. Selfishness, corruption, heightened racism to boot.

We were rewarded with a cruel, smirking home secretary who, as James O’Brien has said, must get up each morning and think

“who can I hurt today?”

Asylum seekers are top of her list. Patel has recently made it illegal to help asylum seekers enter the country under any circumstances. Come the football, she pretended to be nice, but was actually still smirking. She tweeted:

“Just brilliant. Well done #ThreeLions Football's coming home”

And then she tweeted her disgust at all the racist abuse of the players after England had lost. Tyrone Mings wasn’t having any of it.

"You don't get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as 'Gesture Politics' & then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we're campaigning against happens"

We have an education secretary who doesn’t seem to have learnt anything about education, other than how to screw it up for a generation. A foreign secretary who probably still doesn’t really understand what happens at Dover. And a former health secretary who handed out PPE contracts to all his mates and betrayed the NHS.

And then, there’s the fans. Who also vote. So many decent people. But so many ugly racists too. People who delight in using monkey emojis and the N word. So ugly. So hateful. England continues to be a divided country. Brexiters still refuse to admit they were wrong. Still try to blame other people for the fact it didn’t turn out how they wanted it to. We have a government that defends statues rather than people. An institutionally corrupt police force. The same police force that was found to be institutionally racist all those years ago, and still is. Commissioner Cressida is in denial, protecting her officers regardless. Carry on constables!

Marina Hyde, Guardian columnist, nailed it when she wrote:

“F*** me! What would it take?” [for Dame Dick CBE QPM to lose her job].

Getting back to the people, it's not just the bad electoral choices. It's all that arrogance in thinking England has a divine right to win tournaments, and to annoy everyone else in Europe with that song we can never get out of our heads. We all sang it, or hummed it. And every other nation laughs at us when we fail. If only it was just about sport.

Thank goodness we didn’t win the Euros 2020. It would have validated all that nonsense, corruption, hatred, nationalism and stupidity. Quite a few overlaps there.

And yet, I am still feeling sorry for the team and the manager. They did deserve more. They do deserve a trophy. I hope it will come. But I also hope it will come when the country deserves it. When we have an honest, fair, virtuous government, and a country that isn’t split down the middle. A government that doesn’t claim to be the best at everything. That’s laughable. A country that values and practices justice and equality for all. Then and only then will I be able to sing a song in celebration of home, without feeling silly or worse.

© Eddie Hewitt 2021

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