This July 30th will mark the 55th anniversary of the day that England won the World Cup at Wembley. They have never made it back to the final of a major tournament since then but this Sunday they break that hoodoo when they face Italy in the final of Euro 2020 at that same storied venue.
Their progress through the Championships has been serene at times, fraught at others but it has been with forward momentum.
It has given rise to a TV audience here on Tuesday night that was bigger than any Rugby international or All Ireland Final played here in 2020. That is the power of a big football tournament, but also the magnetic attraction of seeing England on the edge, be that of glory or disaster.
Sport is all about the positive emotion of cheering for your own team, but in the case of England, in Ireland and elsewhere, that can sometimes be just as powerful in reverse.
It’s complicated and far too messy in historical terms to be as simple as cheering for players you know and like, so here is a whimsical guide to help you decide whether you will be for or against the end of a major sporting drought that has consumed them, and us, ahead of Sunday night. To be honest we had tried to be clever and make it a list of 55 but A) we thought that would be unfair and B) we ran out of reasons.
In the end, no matter how reasonable you are in coming to a decision on who you want to win, you will not know how strong that feeling is until the first goal when you will cheer or swear, the first penalty call that you think is reasonable or ridiculous, the first bars of the National Anthems or some other trigger.
And if it’s too much to hear both sides, simply read the numbers in Red if you support England and the ones in Blue if you are for Forza Italia.
We know all, or most, of the English players through an obsession with events in the Premier League.
There are more Irish fans of Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City and Leeds than there are of Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Sligo Rovers.
The English team by and large seem like a very likeable bunch of young men, with their social conscience tuned better than many in such a privileged position.
Declan Rice and Jack Grealish played for Ireland and Harry Kane has an Irish Granny, sure they are one of us.
Declan Rice and Jack Grealish played for Ireland and Harry Kane has an Irish Granny. Traitors.
800 years of history
The happiness dividend that would accrue to Boris Johnson
The booing of the opposition national anthem
Harry Kane’s Granny is from Mayo and he’s been pictured with a Mayo jersey. If you feel sorry for Mayo surely there’s an ounce of sympathy for England.
Marcus Rashford and the School Dinners
Imagine what we would be like if we were in the same position
Think of our relatives and friends that have made their lives in England and whose children are on the edge of a spring win they’ll remember all their lives
Think of the ‘No Blacks, No Irish’ signs on rental advertisements in years gone by
If they’ve kept 1966 alive this long, just imagine what this will be like
The ‘fans’ that day in the old Lansdowne Road
Gareth Southgate is a likeable manager who does not get carried away with jingoism
They have 17 and 18-year-old lads in the squad who weren’t even born when we last qualified for a World Cup in 2002.
They are our nearest neighbours and we all have many good friends and colleagues for whom this would be very special
They have continued to kneel in support of equality, despite enormous pressure to stop
That enormous pressure and booing of the taking a knee
The headline writers of the red-top tabloids
Pictures of fans with lager bellies and tattoos
The continued sense of threat when England fans gather for overseas tournaments
They gave us Nessun Dorma as a football theme from Italia 90, and it really is a great song
You’ve found yourself humming ‘football’s coming home’ haven’t you. Classic of its genre.
Try explaining why you don’t want England to win to an eight-year-old fan of the Premier League
What happens will happen and so we really don’t need to get too excited about it.
The winning of that penalty against Denmark
The claims it was justified as revenge for Diego Maradona’s Hand of God
Because we are a little bit jealous and a little bit scared of seeing 65,000 fans celebrating at Wembley
We are not alone. Most of the rest of Europe thinks that the whole thing has been fixed to benefit England
The British Government did stand strong against the European Super League
They would cheer for Ireland
You’ve always really liked Italian football so it’s nothing personal
It’s just England, you can’t help it.
The game is on from 7 PM on RTÉ 2 on Sunday night. May the best team win, because that’s what sport is really all about.
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