The baffling “operatic psychodrama that is English soccer” has gripped even Americans like myself, says Ryu Spaeth in New York Magazine. Every division has temporarily been smoothed over in the glow of success at Euro 2020. This mania, this undying belief that a postwar legacy of thwarted ambition and diminished stature will be purged in the ecstasy of a footballing triumph, has been captured in the ubiquitous phrase “It’s coming home”. Luckily this England team is actually good.
The fan favourite is Jack Grealish, a “B-list version of David Beckham” with floppy hair, a goofy grin and “thighs the size of Iberico hams”. Oddly, England’s best player is Raheem Sterling, who was born in Jamaica. But Grealish has the undeniable charm of someone who looks as if he’d be friends with “anyone who has been out beyond 9pm in a provincial British city”. Gareth Southgate, meanwhile, has emerged as the country’s most prominent foil to nationwide paroxysms of baffled rage. His bland paean to tolerance, “Dear England”, struck a chord.
England now appears to be building toward “some kind of volcanic catharsis”, more than half a century in the making. Not long ago fans were booing the “Marxist” act of taking the knee and Conservative MPs were muttering about Southgate being “deep woke”. Now the PM has taken to wearing an England shirt with “Boris” emblazoned on the back. Would triumph mean a victory for multiracialism and tolerance over bigotry and small-mindedness? Or a more chauvinistic notion of England made great again? It’s beyond this poor American to explain all this. Let’s say “both”.
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