Leading article: Our great British summer of hope

Share
Related Topics

More important than life and death is hope, and that is what is offered by tonight's game between England and Italy.

You do not have to be very interested in football, or even sport generally, to appreciate that there is a tingle of national expectation in the air. We do not know how it is going to end.

Even the most stolidly utilitarian – or Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish – of us may feel the stirring of patriotic identification. There is something deep and anthropological about belonging to a group, which is something that should be celebrated in moderation.

Moderation is what England's Euro 2012 campaign has been all about. Only two weeks ago, confidence was below sea level. Part of this was evidence-based, as they say in politics these days; part of it was a matter of defensive psychological preparation. When Joleon Lescott scored against France in the first engagement of the tournament, the caution started to lift. Some decided that it was safe to hope again, but most of us probably thought that such childish things should stay put away, as England's chances would no doubt go the way of that day's brilliant sunshine. Here we are, however, at the start of the knock-out stage, and the optimism is creeping up on us. Yes, it may be all over tonight. But it may not be.

The team is not the best in the competition, but it has passed a minimum threshold. Roy Hodgson has brought a straightforwardness to the task of managing 11 players on the field that has made a difference detectable even to the non-footballing eye. With Mr Hodgson, what you see is what you get, which makes a change from some of the national team's recent experiments. He is a proper manager, in that he manages people with decency and they respond favourably, seeming to have faith in his decision-making and even in one another.

Let us look forward with hope, then, not just to tonight's game, but also to a summer of sporting entertainment. Wimbledon starts tomorrow and the Olympics are only 33 days away. For all that this newspaper has been sceptical about the Olympic legacy, we feel that there has been a certain Hodgsonesque quality to the organisation of the event itself. It is possible to imagine that the Games might be run well. The venues are finished, and under (the revised) budget. For once, the dictum that the British are the only nation to feel Schadenfreude about themselves may be disproved. We love to complain about how useless we are, not only at winning international football games, but at organising huge public-sector infrastructure projects.

This time, this summer, it could all be different. That is the joy of sport. It is only a spectacle, only athletes against each other or against the clock, but we cannot be sure who is going to win. It has something of the ability of art or fiction to take us out of ourselves, to lose ourselves in "what happens next?". But more than most art, sport is a collective experience, by which we can revel in feeling that we are all in this together, even – or perhaps especially – at a time when such an idea of social solidarity is under economic pressure.

What is more, the moderate nationalism inspired by sporting competition is balanced by the role of sport in promoting democracy and human rights. The British ministerial boycott of Ukraine and the refusal of a visa to the Syrian Olympics chief are small gestures, but they add to the pressures such as those that broke down apartheid in South Africa.

So enjoy tonight's game and, win or lose, tomorrow we can start to ask the question that annually tests the hardiest optimist: Will Andy Murray win this time? Well, we can but hope.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station  

General Election 2015: Despite all the seeming cynicism, our political system works

Ian Birrell
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living