The new Premier League season has begun and I don’t know what to think. I tried to watch all of England’s Euro 2020 matches, but I never made it to the end of any of them. When the final against Italy kicked off, I retired to a quiet room feeling angst and confusion. Why was I so out of step with everyone else?
Gareth Southgate’s players seem like lovely boys. And while they probably represent the better aspects of our evolving culture, it seems likely we may soon discover that they remain fallible. But if the response of the public to England’s triumphs and tragedy was one thing, the reaction of the media was quite another. It drew out the very worst reverse snobbery in me. Put simply, the more people who like football who didn’t used to like football, the less I like football. Yes, that’s childish and self-defeating. But I can’t help it.
The worst were comment writers who had never watched a football game before. Suddenly they were obsessing over working-class sportsmen. They did so in the hope that their own privilege could be assuaged by the promise of a more tolerant society. Behind them came the Corbynite leftovers, who had their own damascene conversion on the misguided premise that Marcus Rashford and his fellow players were unwitting Marxists.
What was so infuriating about this reaction was the crass, unconscious condescension. These writers were saying ‘Now we’ve decided it’s OK to like the England football team and we’ve allowed ourselves to feel patriotic, then you lot have our permission to be patriotic too.’ And they wonder why Brexit happened.
Don’t get me wrong, I tried to ingratiate myself with the metropolitan liberal elite for years.