It’s currently 5pm on Sunday, July 11th, 2021, and England is set to face Italy in the final of the Euro 2020 championships in just three hours (in case you’re reading this in the future, the world had gone through a rough patch since the end of 2019). Prior to the game, I would like to express my hope that England emerge victorious, for the sake of every fan who still holds onto hope. However, my own belief in the team dwindled gradually over the course of six or seven years, rather than happening suddenly.
I believe the root of the problem began around the fourth renewal of the SKY TV/FA contract. The exorbitant amounts of money involved were simply absurd. When a player like Nigel Reo-Coker can fetch a transfer fee of £8.5 million, it’s clear that the game has lost its way. The billions of pounds poured into clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City (among others) made me feel disgusted with modern football. It’s like billionaires playing a real-life game of fantasy football without any true connection to the sport. I was so disillusioned that I even stopped supporting my team, Ipswich Town.
My first visit to Portman Road was at the age of four, where I witnessed a draw with Wolves. Over the years, I sporadically attended games until I was financially capable of supporting myself, which led to a more consistent attendance. Unfortunately, my first full season in 1986 resulted in the team’s relegation, potentially due to my ill-fated presence. Consequently, I became a semi-regular attendee during the subsequent years of second division football. Eventually, as the Premier League launched, ITFC regained their top-flight status by winning the second division, yet this coincided with a gloomy period in my life, causing me to miss several games. Nonetheless, there were still memorable moments, such as the victory against Oxford during our promotion.
One standout moment was watching Spurs play at home during their inaugural Premiership season. I managed to persuade a pub in a notoriously rough Edinburgh neighbourhood to switch on the game, but the atmosphere was tense. Fast forward a few years to my time at Cinram where a group of us, including Dave, Scott, Alan, Gill, and Sue, regularly attended matches together. We even became season ticket holders after the team’s promotion. It’s hard to believe that was two decades ago, but time certainly flies when your football team isn’t performing at its best.
Regarding the national team, I was present for all the disappointments throughout the years. From our unexpected elimination in the 82 world cup despite remaining undefeated, to the exhilaration of Lineker’s hat-trick against Poland and the subsequent agony of Maradona’s handball and stunning goal. The pain continued at Italia 90 with the crushing defeat on penalties. Every tournament followed a similar pattern, just at varying points. The face was painted and the hair was dyed blonde well before Phil Foden’s time. I was completely engrossed in every moment.
And then just like that it was over. The love had gone.
Throughout the lockdown period, I have made an effort to get back into football. However, this has proven to be quite challenging due to my support for low-level teams such as Ipswich and Hearts. The quality of their games hasn’t been the best, but with the assistance of Adz and Giggsy, I have been determined to persevere and give it another try this season. I may even make a return to Portman Road. Shifting gears to England, I have been closely following their progress in the tournament, with the exception of the Germany game which I missed due to holiday plans. The team possesses immense talent and appears to be full of respectable individuals off the field. Although they have been fortunate on certain occasions, isn’t the sport of football all about the ups and downs especially with VAR technology in place. However, I will be rooting for the team from the comfort of my own home during the final.
If you’re watching the game then remember to soak it all in and enjoy it.