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: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: With 100 days still to go how will Cameron, Miliband and Co. keep us all engaged?

Andrew Grice
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project