I was at Wembley for England’s only triumph at a major football tournament. It was a wonderful occasion, and not just because of the result.
It was wonderful because my father and I didn’t have to run the gauntlet of boozed up thugs littering the concourse with broken glass. People didn’t storm the gates depriving legitimate ticket holders of their seats. There were sufficient police to see that order was kept. I believe the West German national anthem was not booed. Nor did we have to wait until 8pm in the evening for the kick-off. It was a time convenient for USA TV apparently, although I wonder how much interest there was there. It was less convenient for people trying to get home from London, young children and the stewards who had to confront thugs who’s been boozing for 12 hours.
Before I am accused of living in a nostalgic haze, I want to come to the issue of racism. It wasn’t an issue in 1966 but not for a good reason. There were no black players in the England team. Perhaps that was a legacy from the shameful incident in the 1920s when Plymouth Argyle’s Jack Leslie was selected for his country until the FA discovered he was black. In 1966 racial discrimination was widespread in housing and jobs. Black and Asian British citizens were unprotected by the law and two years later Enoch Powell received a lot of support for his “rivers of blood” speech.
I like to think we have made progress in this area as the great response to the defacing of the Marcus Rashford mural in Manchester shows. The number of racists may have reduced but the remaining ones now have social media to spread their toxic message be it from abroad or here.
I have lived through the 1990,1996 and 2018 periods when England has whipped itself into a patriotic frenzy, only to face bitter disappointment. When it reached the point of the Queen reminiscing about presenting the Jules Rimet trophy to Bobby Moore, I feared the worst.
The good things to come out of the tournament are the diversity and accessibility of the talented England team, the dignity of Gareth Southgate and the opportunity for us to have had some pleasure and excitement after 16 months of Covid.
So where are we on the world football stage. Not in a great place I am afraid. There was already discontent that England played so many games at home, the rest of Europe was willing Italy on. The scenes of drunkenness and disorder on Sunday make it very likely that UEFA will back Spain/Portugal as the preferred European option to host the 2030 World Cup. I think it should go to Uruguay, the first hosts in 1930, but that’s another matter.
MOW BABY MOW.
I love wildflowers but there is plenty of countryside where farmers can be incentivised to turn over their meadows to buttercups and poppies.
Grass allowed to grow wild on road verges and in the public realm looks ugly and is dangerous when it obscures signs and junctions. I suspect “wilding” is being used by councils to save money.
Also, nobody is going to convince me that an untidy, overgrown mess of grass and flowers is more attractive than a well-trimmed lawn in our gardens, setting off the flower beds which can have an abundance of plants for the bees to enjoy.