Not being a football fanatic – and having declared myself a Euros 2020/2021-free zone for the duration – I had a hard time of it this morning upon rising at my usual unearthly hour and perusing the UK national newspaper websites in order to catch up with what has been happening in the world.
Apparently over the past fortnight the national population (well, at least the English part of it) has switched from a lacking in self-esteem, anxious, fractious, nervy, Covid-obsessed – and seemingly without purpose or direction – rabble into a 21st Century version of the defiant, stout-hearted, committed WW2 Blitz-era, John Bull-like, Battle of Britain-winning (against all the odds Hitler-beating) strike-force that single-handedly saved the civilised Western World, er … with a bit of help from the USA, Russia and everyone else that had a hand in it, of course.
And all over a few games of footy.
Gareth Southgate has been transformed from being a polite but ineffectual assistant bank manager-type, best remembered for failing to convert a penalty in a long-ago international, into the next all-time-great British general in direct descendant line from Marlborough and Wellington.
Captain Kane has switched from being the pundits and fans’ favourite terminal “What are we going to do about Harry, who couldn’t even hit a barn door if he was leaning against it?” problem into a cast-iron case of “We woz completely wrong – give him his knighthood now!” because at last he has begun doing what he is paid to do.
Meanwhile, in another life, yesterday I existed in a state of lethargy.
Somehow I managed to tidy up my flat, do some shopping, consume an early lunch and then have a snooze before forcing myself to change into my sports kit in order to take some outdoor physical exercise during the afternoon.
I was then thwarted in this plan by a sudden downpour which sent me to my television, on which I spent the afternoon watching Wimbledon tennis and then the opening match of the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa – a ‘training exercise’ 56-14 victory over a game but outclassed Gauteng-based Lions team in a completely soulless and empty Ellis Park stadium at altitude.
My abiding reaction was that frankly – despite it being about par for the course for a first outing and no doubt a useful exercise in “shaking out of the limbs” after the flight to Johannesburg – a British & Irish Lions tour without spectators, as now seems this one will be throughout, to all intents and purposes is not worth undertaking.