We may have lost – but football has still come home and everyone’s invited

Maybe the ending wasn’t the one the viewers clamoured for, but it’s very hard not to think that this is only season one

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Sunday 11 July 2021 23:33 BST
England fans celebrate Luke Shaw goal

There is, at least, no sense of what might have been. Nothing to close your eyes and dream about. No sight left unseen. Not even a ball left unkicked. It was all there. The whole game played out.

And that is all that any England football fan has ever really wanted, for as long as any of them can really remember. And make no mistake about it: Gareth, you are very much the one. Good grief you’ve turned us on. Italy are European champions, but football has come home again.

It really has, you know. It had been away for a very long time indeed, but now it’s back. It’s come home to the garden two doors down, where the little boy and girl between the goal have an accumulated four-week heat map that would make Kalvin Phillips look like Jimmy Five Bellies. It’s definitely come home to Mario’s over the road, but let’s not dwell on that for too long.

It’s come home in a freak lager-based flash-flooding event above every high street and outside every pub in the land. And even if it didn’t technically quite come home, it did get crammed up a naked drunk man’s jacksy and set on fire – and won’t that do?

Football’s home is everywhere, of course, and it always has been. It doesn’t have a blue passport. Its freedom of movement is total. Football is equally at home on a Chinese Liverpool FC superfan’s YouTube channel as it is beneath the floodlights that rise over rows of terraced houses in Burnley, or Grimsby, or the big Sainsbury’s behind Selhurst Park. But for a very long time, it really hasn’t been at home at Wembley .

Home is a warm feeling. There is a reason highly paid brand consultants and information architects come up with such things as “home screens” and “home buttons”. Everyone knows what home means, after all. Home is where you go when you’re lost and need a hug.

But not everyone gets to live in such a home. For the very best part of 55 years, in this country at least, football’s home was a socially dysfunctional, passive aggressive flatshare crackling with loathing and resentment.

But football’s found a better place now. It’s moved in with you, and me, and Gareth, and frankly it’s like Little House on the Prairie in there. From now on, from this exalted night, football takes the bins out. It knows when you want a cup of tea before you even do. The days when football left you home alone, desperately peeling the final piece of toilet paper off the cardboard tube while it went out to China White and didn’t get back til 4am on a Wednesday night, with yet another girl out of Nuts mag? Those days are gone.

These are still the best days of football’s life, and everyone’s invited. And this really is the thing that matters most. Maybe the ending wasn’t the one the viewers clamoured for, but it’s very hard not to think that this is only season one.

Years from now – decades, even – you, me, Gareth and football will probably have an eagerly awaited reunion show hosted by James Corden. And when that happens, who would bet against there being a hell of a lot more to reminisce about than this sad but magical night?

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