In my more paranoid moments, I do sometimes wonder if the Universe is largely a joke at my expense.
(Yes, I am aware of my privilege, health, status, all the things I need to check before starting with such an absurd line, I know, but I imagine that we all feel like this at times, you know what I mean)
The Tuesday before last was just such a moment, one of those moments where the fates conspire and a moment which should have been sublime, was rendered, well, less so. The Universe went ahahaha, don't imagine you can have nice things.
I refer, of course, to the sodding football.
I am, for my sins, a football fan. Not of the every two years kind, but a card-carrying sad case, wedded to the fortunes of Tottenham Hotspur and, to a lesser extent, the national side. I always affect not to be arsed about England games, but, at every international tournament , the old excitement rises, the proustian rush of memory, of summers long past, and before you know it I'm screaming at the telly along with my similarly afflicted son.
And of course, as anyone with even a passing interest knows, the story of England in tournament football, is the story of losing to the Germans, also anyone else half-decent, but particularly them. For an England fan of my vintage, it's the heartbreak of Italia 90, compounded by Gazza's inexplicable inability to get on the end of the cross in 96, and Lampard's goal that wasn't in 2010 (the last one didn't hurt quite so much, as we were palpably rubbish).
It's also the story of England failing to make much impression, as players who are sublime for their clubs flail around like eleven strangers at a silent disco the second they pull the national shirt on. To watch this England team progress has been an experience unlike any other. But I digress.
Having spent so long waiting for a tournament win over Germany, you'd have thought elation would have been the primary emotion I felt, and it was, for a bit. That was before the shame took over. You've seen, no doubt, the pictures of the young German fan crying, and you've doubtless also seen the shameful mockery poured on her by crowing England fans. You've heard the booing of the anthems, you've heard the booing of the taking of the knee.
This blog could also have been called "This is why we can't have nice things."
I can never fully enjoy an England win because part of my brain is always preoccupied with the thought that somewhere some pretty terrible people are enjoying it too, and that doesn't sit well with me. Likewise, I was enjoying the unheard of joy of winning a semi-final when I saw this thread, where a Danish fan details the various crudities, threats and assaults perpetrated on him and his family by England fans, hearing them chant "we're gonna rape Italy", before I heard about the dickhead shining a laser pointer into the eyes of Kasper Schmeichel.
I hear about things like this and I want us to lose, and it's not fair. For some reason, English football attracts a group of people whose behaviour disgraces the nation. You don't see it at the cricket, you don't see it at the rugby, Union or League, yes there are pissed up arseholes wherever you go in the country, but only the football seems to bring them out in such ruinous numbers.
I don't know the reason for this, I still hold to the belief that most people are alright when you get to know them, but it's a horrible irony that, at a time when the England team is something to be proud of, a diverse group of socially conscious young men with a thoughtful manager, embodying some of the best things about us as a country, elements (and they are sizable elements) of the fanbase still stand for the absolute worst aspects of our national psyche: drunkenness, xenophobia, jingoism, nationalism, brutalism.
I'm tired of the "only a small element" argument. It's been "only a small element" for my entire lifetime, embarrassing us as they trash yet another European town centre. It's been "only a small element" singing "Ten German Bombers" and "No surrender to the IRA" for as long as I've been aware that football was a thing. It's long past time "only a small element" became "absolutely no-one, because this is appalling behaviour which needs to get in the bin."
Because it's my England too, and it's the England of a lot of people who can celebrate a win without getting pissed and punching a foreigner, it's the England of people who don't feel the need to boo the opposition's anthem, or, for that matter, their own team, and I'm fed up of feeling ambivalent about them because some of my fellow countrymen are a waste of valuable oxygen.