It’s all kicking off!

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I won’t deny it’s been an ‘interesting’ month! Let’s just refer to the old adage about friends and finding out who they are, and leave it there. There seemed to be a lot of aggression around, perhaps it was the heat, but whether driving, sitting in coffee shops or skipping through social media, there was a propensity for unnecessary rage.

I never thought I would hear myself say it, but thank God for the football!
If you are old enough to remember the Sixties, you may recall football matches with endless reports of violence on the terraces and running battles with rival fans. Mercifully all of that seems to have fallen out of fashion for the most part.

On the afternoon of July 7th, in an England basking in the heat and brassed off with Brexit, there was a really great vibe. England had actually got through to the quarter finals! It seemed we were all united and believed it was ‘Coming Home’.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I’m a woman that I’ve never been especially interested in the beautiful game. I realise that footie is gender-neutral, but it’s simply never appealed to me personally.

But that said, I become a raving lunatic (and somewhat of an armchair expert) when it comes to the England games. Born of a love of David Beckham (why isn’t he still playing?), I have quickly grasped how the press treat the England team: build them up when they win 6-1 against a team of postmen from Panama, and knock them down when we lose 0-1 to a group of people who love expensive chocolate. But on the afternoon of the 7th, we Pagans had a house full, gathered around the telly like a tribe around a fire. Suddenly we knew all the rules. When it wasn’t a foul and when it certainly was. (Are you blind, Ref?) The off-side rule was no longer a mystery to any of us, except, that is, the actual linesman, and our administering of yellow cards was prolific. Then two goals!! The roof, as they say, came off.

The pundits had decided England had already won the cup and that the match with Croatia was a mere five-a-side knock- around, all bets were on and we wondered if Gareth Southgate would sport a Union Jack waistcoat for the final.

Football, obviously, is a very powerful game with the ability to pull a whole nation together in a common cause. Who would have thought that eleven, (rather overpaid if we’re honest), young men trying to get a ball into a large net for ninety odd minutes could inspire that amount of fervour?

Whether you’re a football fan or not, that sense of patriotism and collective excitement can be contagious. Even if at times it’s stressful to watch England play, it’s a welcome change from the pervasive air of negativity.

Personally, I could do with a World Cup every year!

Sandra Pagan