It was hardly surprising that the British tabloids responded to Germany’s early World Cup exit this week with stereotypes even the nineteen-seventies would have blanched at. That’s what they do: reduce a global football tournament that unites to caricature and ahead of us lies much worse as things get more and more serious. Jingoism awaits, splashed onto the front page with tub-thumping ‘passion’ as too does terminology that suggests Harry Kane and co are going to war and not contesting a football match.
If all of that is sadly par for the course what was encouraging – immensely so – was the reaction to headlines that evoked V-E Day. Online and elsewhere there was widespread condemnation and no small amount of mockery for the newspapers’ attempts to whip up negativity and this has already become a running theme of this World Cup. Stitch up Sterling over a tattoo? No, we’re not having that. Reveal a team sheet ahead of a group game? No, that’s out of order. Go all Basil Fawlty over a rival’s defeat? Nah mate, Germany are a footballing superpower and it’s humorous to see them struggle for once but that’s as far as it goes.
This level-headed perspective can be extended right across the tournament from a nation that used to get so embroiled in patriotic fervour that it would affect the performances of its players.
Now there is excitement at seeing a young side guided by a thoroughly likeable manager do well so far in Russia and no small amount of pride too. But there is balance too. Again we return to that word: perspective.
Of course that is not to say that we’re apathetic in any way, or that we don’t really, really want our boys to go far this summer and return in glory. The Passion Meter is proof of that with fascinating results showing how much English supporters are willing to sacrifice in exchange for their team coming home to a hero’s welcome.
And yes, there will always be that guy, his face painted in a St George, bellowing ‘ROONEY’ in your face because he’s so drunk he believes it’s still 2004.
By and large though, and for the first time in living memory, England fans have their feet placed squarely on terra firma this summer. They’re looking for the positives. They’re celebrating the positives. They’re embracing optimism while remaining realistic. Long may this continue.