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Southgate’s Heroes represent us all
Whether or not you are a football fan you can’t fail to have noticed the clamour on our island over the past four weeks, as flags adorned houses, cars and pubs and the strains of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ was ever present, on the radio and in the stadiums.
Thank goodness it’s all over! Not that we don’t have our fair share of fanatics here at HDN, we are pretty much reflective of English society, a diverse bunch with a common aim. No, it’s more a case that we, once again, are able to recover, reflect and to return to day-to-day life, and to spend time thinking about and talking about matters that pressed us before Euro 2020 and will continue to do so now the dust has settled.
But, at our team meeting this morning, one or two of us were unusually flat, not down, not miserable, just a little…flat.
So before life gets back to normal let’s talk, for one more time, about why we so wanted the England football team to end our 55 years of hurt and bring home the trophy. Sure we support our players at every tournament but this time something was different. We like them too.
Football is a tribal business, ask any fans of Liverpool/Everton; Arsenal/Chelsea or, dare I say it Burnley and Blackburn! But fans of the English clubs all came together this time to support a team lead by a thoroughly honourable manager and packed with players, genuinely reflective of society, and with real social purpose.
Gareth Southgate wasn’t everyone’s pick for England head coach, but over the past five years he has shown himself to be a thoughtful and kind man, a brave tactician and an inspirational leader. He has allowed his team to stand up for its principles, to speak out against prejudice, to tackle unfairness and to proudly stand up for what they believe in. And they believe pretty much what we do. And these are heroes who make such a difference to so many people.
Captain Harry Kane works tirelessly to ensure London playing fields are not built upon, and he wore a rainbow armband in the match against Germany. Marcus Rashford took up the fight for free school dinners during the pandemic; Bukayo Saka is an inspiration to any young boy or girl who wants to play football, as well as excelling at school. And they are all enabled by Southgate who has pulled the national team quietly but firmly into the 21st century.
The England football team is a model of diversity and represents us, as a nation, more closely than ever before; and it’s no coincidence that this brave young band of men is the first collective to reach a major final since 1966, and for that we should all be grateful.
Okay we lost to Italy on penalties… so what’s new? And when 19 year old Saka stepped up and missed the final spot kick, we could, rather depressingly, guess what was to follow on social media, written by irate keyboard warriors more intent to concentrate on someone’s skin colour than the fact that the Italy goalie Gigi Donnarumma is a 6ft 5in colossus, a virtual human wall!
So Bukayo, today we all stand with you…alongside your brilliant manager.
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