On Wednesday we wake up at 4am to watch the game.
When F suggests doing so the night before, I am reticent. But then he says, It’s England. And it’s knockout.
So we wake at 4am.
Football exists in my past in a way that it does not exist in my present. When I think about football, it is with nostalgia, a thing I used to do. Not do, obviously, but watch. Engage in. Have knowledge of.
Now I don’t recognise any of the players. But that doesn’t matter. They represent more than their names and faces. They represent all the penalty shoot-outs I’ve watched England lose. All of them.
And I don’t believe this tournament will be any different. It’s not in my blood.
On Saturday we watch the first half at home and go to the pub for the second. But by then it’s 1am and it takes us three attempts to get in anywhere.
Just as we get a beer they score the second goal and everyone’s feet leave the floor at the same time. I scream. It’s ok to scream because we all are.
But it’s not natural for English people to be optimistic. Let’s not forget that the song about football coming home was just a factual statement about where the tournament was being played. No one’s ever believed it will be ours. No one expects we’ll go into a game with the odds on us.
We stand close to a group of guys who tell us they only let us take the space because they like the colour of my dress. Green, says the ringleader, that’s my favourite colour.
After the goal he leans over to F and says, If they win we’re going to the strippers. Pass it on. But is horrified when F tells me, my face mock-aghast.
He’s only gone and told his missus! he says to his friends. To which one of the friends shouts, The male strippers! We meant the male strippers!
The ringleader turns to me, to my unconvinced face. I meant the paint strippers, he says.
Oh, I say, I love DIY! And they laugh.
The man in front of us is swaying disconcertingly. Everyone is very close to each other. I lean in to F and hook my thumb into his back pocket. He turns round quickly. Is that you? he says. My wallet’s in that pocket. Everyone is very close.
The TV shows a close up of a beautiful, sad Swedish woman, which elicits cheers from the crowd. Then a close up of a crying Swedish man, which inspires even louder cheers.
As 90 minutes approaches, the group of men next to us break into song: Football’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming home. It’s coming…
Over the top of the singing, a lone voice emerges: What about my dad? the voice says. Is he coming home?
But no one answers.
The final whistle blows. Victory.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 8th July 2018 as part of Internet Care Package.
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