Euro 2020

How I fell out of love with football

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

The Italians are deluding themselves about the English

Not content with winning Euro 2020, many Italians have spent the days since the final engaged in a febrile orgy of moral supremacy. Italians are not just much better than the English at football, you see (which is fair enough, although they did only win on penalties), but many Italians are insisting, even more excitedly, that the Italians are much better people than the English. To which I, as a Brexiteer expat Briton who has lived amongst Italians for donkey’s years, have this to say: Si calmino, signori, si calmino! (Calm down dears!). The English football team have been branded as bad losers and cheats; their supporters have been labelled as rude, arrogant,

Football’s never coming home

I failed a moral test last weekend. A friend offered me a free ticket to the Euro 2020 final and I accepted, knowing my 13-year-old son Charlie would be bitterly disappointed. I had told him I’d try to get two tickets so I could take him, but all my efforts had come to nought and we were resigned to watching it at home. When I broke the news that I’d be going but not taking him, he looked heartbroken, as I knew he would be. I spent hours trying to justify it to myself afterwards. Surely, if he’d been offered a ticket by a friend, he would have taken it?

Britain is a tolerant country and a few football racists don’t change that

The racist messages sent to England football players in recent days are shameful, but to suggest that the UK is a festering hotbed overflowing with racist thugs is a step too far. Out of the hundreds of thousands of social media posts about the Euro 2020 final, only a tiny number contained racist words. Of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak out against such abuse. What happened is indefensible and the culprits should be dealt with by the police. But the frenzied debate the messages have generated risk giving those responsible the attention they crave and which they do not deserve. As well as failing to see the bigger picture here – that Britain, generally

PMQs: Johnson strains over ‘gesture politics’

Boris Johnson’s uncomfortable session at Prime Minister’s Questions was largely of his own making rather than the work of Keir Starmer. As I wrote earlier, the Tories have tied themselves in knots over the question of taking the knee to the extent that they are now open to accusations that they don’t really care about racism. The Labour leader did a reasonable job of prosecuting the various statements made by Johnson and others, including Priti Patel’s comment that it was ‘gesture politics’.  Prime Ministers don’t tend to make a habit of carrying out of date by-election literature in their handbags That Johnson was nervous about the theme of the session became

Football fans are rejoicing that Euro 2020 is finally over

Thank goodness that’s over. The Euros were fun and all that but now, please, can we get back to real football instead of this Disneyfied version of the game that brings out the best – and worst – of us? From little cars that bring the footballs on to the pitch to those toe-curling TV idents for Alipay and other sponsors, it’s time to put away the over-glorified spectacle of England losing and concentrate on watching real football with real football fans. That means getting depressed every other week instead of every other year; looking down our noses at anyone flying a flag from their car or eating popcorn at

Sam Ashworth-Hayes

The apocalyptic side to English football

It had to end this way. Whatever else we might say about the English weather, it is deeply in tune with the national psyche – the emotions of the people over innumerable generations have taken on the grey, leaden cast of their skies – and there could be no more fitting day after that final than torrential rain and thunder driving the few mournful shadows from the streets. The fact that mere defeat has left our faith in football coming home unshaken can be slightly confusing for foreign observers. While American journalists and the Croatian national team seem to believe it’s a triumphalist brag, we know that it’s about always

We still believe: Could England win Qatar 2022?

Here’s a two-pointer pub quiz question: who was Bunny Austin and when, where and why did you hear his name mentioned annually until 2012? The brilliantly-named Bunny was, for an agonising 74 years of hurt, the last Briton to reach the final of the men’s singles at Wimbledon. He didn’t actually win it in 1938, like the better known Fred Perry had three times earlier in that decade. But his name came up in commentary and sports reports without fail every year for decades, in late June or early July, whenever the last Brit was knocked out or, on heady occasions, when one reached the quarters or even semis. Tim

Damian Reilly

Gareth Southgate doesn’t deserve a knighthood

It was some achievement of England’s, frankly, not winning Euro 2020 given the players we had. As I sat down before kick off and began the customary cursing at the inexplicable omission once again of our best player, Jack Grealish, my wife tried to console me. The fact Gareth Southgate very clearly had no clue which was his best starting eleven was really a secret weapon, she said. It meant other managers couldn’t second guess him. Hmm, I thought. The relentless corporatisation of the England football team over the last two decades has been an exercise in eradicating flair – that quality most hated in boardrooms because it is unquantifiable. Putting

Ross Clark

Isn’t it time social media cracked down on racism?

No sooner had Bukayo Saka’s penalty kick thudded into the gloves of the Italian goalkeeper than you could see it coming. Racists were not going to miss the opportunity to attack the England team. And sure enough, within hours the sewer that is Twitter (even at the best of times) had become a torrent of effluent. I don’t know a great deal about coding, but I can’t think it is really all that difficult to pick up certain words and remove them Yes, it does show there is still an underbelly of racism in English society — even if the charge that we are a country of ‘systemic racism’ left

England had it and they threw it away

England: 1 (Shaw)  Italy: 1 (Swarthy cheat) England had it and threw it away. Much the better side in the first half, finding acres of space along the right flank. But the Italian manager, Roberto Mancini, recognised the problem and changed the game. As Italy swarmed forward in the second half, Gareth Southgate had no answer: it was almost a re-run of the 2018 semi final in Russia against Croatia – he cannot grasp when a game is going against him and has no comprehension of what to do to change it. His substitutions were appalling: Henderson horribly off the pace, Saka horribly out of his depth. Two very bad

Jess Phillips is wrong about football’s double-barrelled surnames

As the nation went football mad last week, nowhere was there a more stark expression of the ‘I’m-new-to-this performative fandom’ phenomenon than in Westminster. We were treated to the Prime Minister wearing an England top over a shirt and tie, Jacob Rees-Mogg bizarrely recreating the John Barnes ‘World in Motion’ rap and so on and so on. But amid this stiff competition the MP who most – unwittingly – revealed their apparent real lack of interest in or knowledge of the beautiful game was Labour’s Jess Phillips. ‘My youngests question for tonight “why do footballers never have double barrelled names?”’, she asked. Phillips no doubt intended to score a culture

Nicholas Farrell

England, Italy and the power of national pride

As an Englishman in enemy territory I am lucky that love is a more powerful emotion than patriotism otherwise after a month of Euro 2020, climaxing in tonight’s final between Italy and England, my marriage to my Italian wife, Carla, would be well and truly on the rocks – even though she is a devout Catholic. Carla is so fiercely pro gli azzurri that it is a case of ‘o con noi, o contro di noi’ (either with us or against us) – the clarion call of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Every time the Italians have scored a goal this past month my very fiery wife has exploded from

Rod Liddle

Euro 2020: This game is tailor-made for Southgate’s England

Right now, it’s a bit like you’re five years old and it’s the night before Christmas but you can’t be sure who is going to come down the chimney, Santa Claus or Benito Mussolini. I mean for football fans – not for the public school bedwetters on here who refer to the world’s favourite sport as ‘girlball’. Italy are unbeaten in their last 33 games: good. Runs come to an end sooner or later. This is a game tailor-made for Southgate’s favourite tactics of stifling containment. This may well turn out to be one of the most boring matches in the history of football. I would start with Sancho and

What’s the problem with Gareth Southgate’s ‘war talk’?

War analogies are a cherished football tradition. From chants of ‘Stand up if you won the war’ to the Daily Mirror’s infamous 1996 headline ‘Achtung! Surrender – For you Fritz, ze Euro 96 Championship is over!’ But the Euro 2020 tournament has been marked by restraint from the British tabloid media. It’s as if someone had told them not to mention the war. Unperturbed by the comparative quiet on the war-theme front this year, Gareth Southgate has gone out guns blazing in an interview with the Telegraph. Ahead of England’s final against Italy on Sunday, he told the paper that it was a kind of Blitz spirit that allowed his

Quick, crowd-pleasing snacks for the big game

Until this week I don’t think my mother had ever in her life watched a football game. Wednesday changed that, marking the start of her new-found frenzy and puns about England’s ‘Sterling effort!’ (to squeals of laughter from her female friends gang). Now they’re in a state of hysterical excitement and are busy planning their match day. Football really is coming home. With nobody – including mum – minded to spend all day slaving away in the kitchen, food for Sunday’s game needs to be quick, easy and ideally unhealthy. Here are some ideas. Baked cheese A baked brie or camembert – or even better a British cheese like Baron

The return of English patriotism

Back in the summer of 2015 as I awaited the birth of my second son, when people asked me about my burgeoning bump — as they are wont to do of heavily-pregnant women — I kept receiving the same, curious response. ‘Oh you haven’t timed that well,’ random strangers would say. ‘August babies don’t do so well at school — and they never become Premiership footballers.’ As I smiled politely and thanked them for their unsolicited advice, I thought again and again, ‘What right-thinking mother would want their son to be a Premiership footballer?’ The sleaze, the moral corruption, the obscene salaries and conspicuous consumption. Tabloid-fodder, hooligans with credit cards, the underwhelming

Patrick O'Flynn

Boris’s cunning has allowed him to share in England’s Euro 2020 glory

You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose. That was the formula of legendary New York governor Mario Cuomo and it served him pretty well over three successive terms in office. But it’s not quite right. Not these days.  What Boris Johnson appears to understand and Keir Starmer does not is that a key factor is whether you know how to campaign in pictures. We are a long way from an election campaign, but the natural Johnsonian flair for a compelling photograph is already being revealed as a massive advantage for him when compared to the dull visual output of the opposition leader. Becoming the leader most associated with the

Have Southgate’s England lost their moral compass?

Back in the 1980s the BBC Match of the Day opening credits featured a clip of Manchester United winger Mickey Thomas prostrate on the pitch. He raises himself up and gives a saucy wink to the camera. The implication was that he had ‘won’ a penalty and was cheekily acknowledging his successful deceit. Contrast with Raheem Sterling on Wednesday night. It’s generally accepted that if there was any contact between the England striker and the body parts of various Danish defenders swarming around him, it was minimal, and not enough to send him tumbling to the ground. And certainly not worth a crucial penalty. But Sterling seemed oblivious, no guilty