10 June 2016
Are you a football fan?
Whether you like it or not, it’s about to take over the country for a few weeks as today marks the start of Euro 2016.
France and Romania officially kick off the championship in Paris at 8pm tonight. And, if your offices are anything like mine, excitement levels are probably already very high. It’s no surprise we sports fans are feeling cheerful: for the first time in almost sixty years, three of the home nations are taking part in the same major football competition.
But, I don’t think this is the only reason we are all getting worked up. With so much focus on the EU Referendum vote, it makes for a nice change to see Europe coming together to share in a common passion. After all, a bit of healthy competition makes light of what are, in fact, rather unstable times.
Taking a break from the complicated economics and political issues that have been discussed so much in the Brexit debate over the last few months, it is nice to be able to talk about something light and positive, something we can all get excited about. Whilst I am more of a rugby man myself, there is something infectious about the atmosphere and energy of international footballing competitions.
I do wonder why the government decided to hold a European vote bang in the middle of one Europe’s largest sporting events. Surely it’s not accidental.
Many papers have linked back to the political career of Harold Wilson, who in 1970 was very suddenly tipped out of Downing Street following an election that happened just four days after England lost against West Germany in an equally shocking World Cup quarter-final defeat. Will a win or loss in France change our current national mood?
Conspiracy theories aside, I believe the European Championships help us celebrate being a part of Europe, rather than the potential of parting from it.
For the next four weeks, we get to dress in our national colours, sing our national anthems and support our national teams. Whilst Euro 2016 could be seen as a festival of national identity and division, built on both players and supporters backing their country rather than individual clubs or players; it is also a celebration of what makes Europe great – enjoying sporting events like this one because of easy travel, for instance – keeping air fares low and crossing borders quickly.
Whatever way we look at it, the next month is going to be a big one for Europe. I just hope we’ll continue to take part in more ways than one.
Come on Britain!