“Could you please, please, please, please just fucking fuck off, you have arrived during the worst sixty seconds of my life and I really don’t want to see you,” screams the curly-haired, rugged form of a young Colin Firth, adorned in a football jersey as he yells from the window of a London flat.
I hit pause and point at the laptop, smudging the screen with my finger, a toddler waving an accusatory digit at a long-suffering parent.
“That,” I say to my long-suffering girlfriend, the parent in this analogy.
“That is what it’s like to be a football fan.”
Of course, I’m showing her the classic Nick Hornby film Fever Pitch. The movie about a man whose life happiness depends entirely on Arsenal doing well. Luckily for everyone in this film they eventually do, as the rom-com is based on the team’s historic 1989 Division One title win. Your entire happiness depending on a football result… sound familiar?
England has been swept away in the national team’s success at this World Cup. Pubs have swelled with fans, beer spilling from their pints as they insist on chucking them as soon as a goal is scored, Gareth Southgate enthusiasts have dusted off waistcoats and donned the manager’s professional attire but most importantly the nation has crept closer and closer towards the full and unreserved belief that the ultimate can be achieved. Football will, in fact, come home and millions of fans will open their arms to gratefully accept it.
Well, obviously it is coming home. England are actually playing well, their defence is solid, they can score lots of goals. They look calm and content, people actually like the players, hell people who aren’t English have started to like the players. But there is a looming question that lurks in the deeper recesses of my mind. Crouching under bleak corners of self-doubt and in between the replays of terrible displays, shock exits, dreaded penalty endeavours. It’s a question that poses a mind-shattering scenario: What if it doesn’t come home?
I know, it’s something we dare not think about but it’s something that I think we really should.
The nation is so elated with our team, so happy and buoyant by the success of Southgate’s rag-tag of likable, renegade underdogs that there has genuinely been a lift in mood across old Blighty. Strangers hug in the streets, joined literally by a subtle look, a point and the words: “Is it coming home?” People are showing belief in the team, creating a great connection with the players through social media, re-kindling a love for the players that hasn’t been seen since the 1990’s. Stores are letting their employees go home early to watch the matches, celebrities and ex-players far and wide are contributing to a national hubbub that is zipping through us like an electric current, hell 62,000 people tweeted “It’s coming home” on Saturday as England cruised past Sweden into their first semi-final for 28 years. And none of them were joking. Well, they better not have been.
But I ask, and I really hope, that even if, by some cruel twist of fate (or the boot of a foreign player that is a lot more skilled than ours) it doesn’t come home, that this unity, pride and happiness remains. Yes, be disappointed. Be upset. Wish that the dream could have been achieved but keep that pride, think about the success of this tournament. What it has done. How love has been rekindled from the fans, how the English team has bonded and built itself into a strong unit how Gareth bloody Southgate has suddenly become the world’s sexiest man without even trying. Remember the record-breaking Panama game, the actual penalty shoot-out win (that happened), reaching a semi-final of a world cup for the first time since Gazza wiped tears from his eyes at Italia 90.
Remember how much this world cup has strangely, unexpectedly and wholeheartedly united us and remember this: that unity isn’t just dependent on football results. Life doesn’t have to be like Fever Pitch.
My girlfriend gave me a questioning look as the film resumed and Colin’s life hit its apex when Arsenal snatch the league win bringing the title to a close.
“So when your team lose, you’re sad Colin Firth?”
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Saying that it doesn’t really matter, because it is coming home.