It was just a football match! Nothing more, nothing less.
All hype, hope and hysteria that build up to any England game and mean that losing hurts even more.
But this? Where we are now? It’s insanity.
Even travelling home and away to watch club and international football for decades, I’ve never witnessed anything like the carnage of Sunday night’s Euro final.
Not even the bad old days of the seventies were like this.
Football is tribal, it always has been and you’ll never rid it of that. But the sheer amount of hatred and bile that erupted before, during and after England playing Italy was astonishing.
The racist abuse aimed at three young, working-class blokes having the balls to step forward and take those penalties is unbelievable.
I mean, literally can you even get your head around the thought processes that lead to that behaviour?
You can debate the rights and wrongs of Southgate’s decisions all you like but the colour of anyone’s skin has NOTHING to do with how well they kick a bloody football.
Those poor lads not only had to deal with the utter pain of what happened – something they will carry all their lives – but the astonishing vitriol aimed at them.
The picture of Southgate hugging Saka, to me, was the photo of the entire tournament.
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Yes we lost – but the greatest football teams in the world lose important finals.
The best players in the world miss penalties.
Iconic managers make bad decisions.
With this game, though, it wasn’t the England team who let the country down, it was the England “fans”.
Though actually they’re not fans are they?
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Because while we all enjoy a few pints at a game, openly taking drugs and turning into a brain dead, hate-filled psychopath is beyond comprehension.
And it of course plays into the hands of everyone who hates football, hates fans and thinks we’re all low life, knuckle-dragging racists.
Which means those of us who genuinely love the sport will be treated with even more contempt than usual.
More being constantly filmed and kettled by the police at away matches.
More restrictions on alcohol, more being hauled, literally, by the scruff of your neck out of grounds for daring to jump up out of your seat.
Looking at the photos of Sunday’s depressing mess, most of the idiots involved appeared to be young blokes. Probably similar ages to our penalty takers.
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And, as we all know by now, it’s young, working-class men (of all colours) who are getting left behind in our weird new world. Educationally, employment wise and emotionally.
Surely the fact that Saka, Rashford and Sancho have all managed to claw their way out of that trap should motivate youngsters?
Getting to the top of your chosen profession before your 20th birthday is the very definition of inspiration.
The disappointment of losing at anything is crushing. Older England fans have “seen it all before” as the song goes.
This tournament though was different. It represented a small ray of joy amidst an endless slog of lockdowns, death tolls and despair.
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Win or lose, we should be celebrating getting to the final, because let’s be honest the best two sides in the Euros came first and second. As it should be.
Maybe the mass hooliganism was a release of all the pent-up anger and frustration after a year of lockdowns?
Maybe it was the fact our beautiful game has become a political football more than ever before? Maybe it was a very dodgy referee and an Italian side which plays 4-4-cheat? Maybe the anonymity of social media is to blame?
There are no excuses.
We learn. We move forward. We have the World Cup next year. So let’s show the world what we are made of and be the one thing
everyone now thinks we’re not.
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