In 2019 England’s rugby team played an absolute blinder in the semi final of the rugby World Cup to beat the no. 1 side, New Zealand. I watched in front of a big screen at Twickenham barely daring to breathe, let alone believe. The final, in the Yokohama stadium in Japan was a week later. My son happens to be a close friend of the England rugby team kit boy… sorry, logistics manager with whom he was at Uni. ‘Dad, fancy going to Tokyo…?’
We had a great time. England lost. Of course.
Earlier that year, England were favourites for the cricket world cup, being hosted in England. After the usual scares, England were in the final at Lord’s cricket ground. I had two tickets so went with my lad. It was the most dramatic game ever in a final, the epitome of a once in a lifetime event and I was there. My boy was jumping as the tension grew and grew. He relished it, the uncertainty. He had an unshakeable belief that we would somehow prevail.
He took this picture of me, just before what’s called the ‘super over’, a sort of penalty shoot out for cricket. That’s never happened before in a world cup final.
Supporting England hurts, even if they eventually win, as they did with the Cricket.
So I apologise if my reaction to England’s comfortable passage through the quarter finals of the Euros is one of a large sigh. Even when we were 3-0 ahead I held my head in my hands if the commentators suggested England ‘had it in the bag’ and were ‘nailed on to win’, wanting them to curl up and… well, suffer something unpleasant… The concept of the commentator’s curse is a thing. A THING, I tell you.
I’ve learnt such things exist, ever since I was blamed, aged 9 for Germany’s equalising goal in the final minute of the 1966 world cup final by the simple expedient of entering the TV room at that precise moment. A child’s curse, if you like. The despair on the faces of the adults as they realised their dreams had to go on hold was quite frankly terrifying. That we won thirty minutes later didn’t remove the scars of that moment.
The lesson, I took away? That it’s not the despair of losing that hurts, that stops hearts, that hollows you out.
No, it’s the sodding hope that precedes it.
And on Wednesday at 8pm BST, once again, as I’ve been at countless sporting events since that fateful day in 1966, I will cloak myself in hope. I will tell myself it doesn’t matter. I will sit still and watch. I will think of my dad – he understood; after all we shared some (few) moments of euphoria and several of despair.
And the hope will crush me. Again. It’s an addiction, damn it. But I’m not stopping hoping…