Football’s coming home but our manners are stuck at customs

With their hearts in their mouths, England fans watched Harry Maguire and Dele Alli win us a place in the World Cup semi-final. I’ll be watching Wednesday’s match, along with an estimated seven out of ten people in the UK, participating by liking tweets about Gareth Southgate and his fetching waistcoat. Long ago were the days where I referred to him as Gavin or the one with the nice face – it’s full names only for England’s saviour. 

While my time as a football fan has just begun, I am considering handing back my membership badge after England supporters trashed IKEA, police cars and bars all in the name of a win. Where I applaud the team and a bit of healthy competition, disrespect doesn’t sit well with me. I doubt Gareth approves either.

For once, the England team have been applauded for their behaviour, conducting themselves well on and off the pitch. After missing that penalty in 1996, Southgate consoling Colombia’s Manuel Uribe, showed a level of maturity, compassion and empathy that England’s been missing. Despite Panamanian rugby tackles in the penalty area and Colombian players scuffing the penalty spot, they played a fair game. But the same cannot be said for our home supporter behaviour.

Where early reports from Russia said England fans engaged in a scuffling with each other, it seems we are now fighting everything: inanimate objects included. Videos of England supporters on top of cars litter my Facebook feed, and if it’s their own well it’s their sacrifice. But disregarding the police is another level. Do we want to go into our first semi-final since 1990 like this? Banned from furniture shops and watching the match from behind bars? That kind of behaviour is out of order for a lot of reasons, particularly now – it’s too hot.

Outside our local, fans were perplexed by the police arresting a supporter who climbed atop their car. People got involved and tried to convince the officers it was just celebrating. It’s not. Just like tipping tables and smashing glasses isn’t celebrating. Kicking over chairs isn’t celebrating. Again, our local.

I’m here for an enthusiastic fist pump, a hug from a stranger or a group victory lap around the bar, but one more smashed windscreen and I’m out. I’ll catch up with Love Island instead. Even there, there’s more respect.

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October 2021
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