Euro 2020: A tournament that brought hope and happiness back to the country
It was so close. Our doors were open, the welcome mat cleaned, and the flags were flying. But football is still not home. The clock continues to add to 55 years of injury after more heartache at Wembley.
But now is not the time to be discouraged. The past four weeks have meant more to our nation than just fighting for victory in football. After the devastation the pandemic wreaked on our lives for 17 months, it has given us all something to enjoy and celebrate, despite Italy’s refusal to achieve victory.
Euro 2020: Live updates as pubs pile in Portsmouth ahead of England v Italy …
We’ve mapped England’s journey to the final in this article and online through the eyes of our readers, with passions growing as we come out of the group stages, beat our nemesis in Germany, brush aside the ‘Ukraine and then we made our way through to the final with the victory over Denmark. That cheerful mood was so evident in everyone we featured as we joined in the celebrations in pubs and clubs around Portsmouth and beyond as England headed to the final.
Wherever I have been over the past two weeks, this has been the main topic of conversation that brought footballers and non-footballers together. He saw much needed smiles come back on people’s faces, was another pillar of strength to unite our communities and a reason for new hope for the future.
And – even when defeated – we should still feel a sense of pride because it wasn’t just about what happened on the pitch. We should still find solace in how we arrived at our first final since 1966 under the immaculate leadership of Gareth Southgate and his team of, well, normal people.
The current generation of English footballers are not the disconnected superstars of the past whose lives are nothing like ours. They are still as skilled and well paid as those who have tried before them. But they also showed they care. Many players – including Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson – have paved the way for causes such as racism, food poverty, the NHS and mental health. Many have helped the most needy at the height of the confinements.
Football may not have come home yet. But we can still savor the happiness, hope, and humility we felt while watching and waiting.