Our son discovered the joy of football but my Euros memories have been tainted by destructive England fans
Don’t excuse the swathes of supporters who let down a team that had united the country and brought so much happiness during a special tournament, writes Laura Lawrence.
I love England but I don’t like it very much at times. There are a million and one reasons why this is a great nation but there are equally as many as to why it is not.
Swathes of fans let a team down that has done more to bring this country together than anyone since the 2012 Olympics. As I discussed last week, this team’s attitude to progressive unity should have been a guiding light not a flare jammed into an England fan’s rectum.
Don’t excuse them by saying they’re not real fans. They are. This is what some real England supporters do. It’s what they have been given licence to do. What is it about the English psyche that wants to destroy even when things are good?
Normally I would follow a game via Twitter. I couldn’t do it. The scenes in Leicester Square and outside Wembley made me too sad and angry.
This tournament for me was the culmination of joy on the pitch and off it. The tiny football car; Emma Hayes, Ally McCoist, and Ian Wright bringing knowledge and fun together; Ciro Immobile’s faux resurrection; Luke Shaw sticking it to Jose Mourinho; Bukayo Saka’s face as he leaps into the air on an inflatable unicorn; Magic Monday and every one of those 14 goals; Denmark and their strength of character to progress after Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest. Finally beating Germany at a tournament. Gareth Southgate. Always Gareth and his calm leadership. Reaching a final after all these years.
This tournament has also been personal.
Our five-year-old son has additional needs. He struggles with speech and social communication. He doesn’t always find it easy to play with other children his age. He’s watched an awful lot of football this tournament with his Dad and I. Gradually we’ve seen him grow into enjoying the game, supporting a team and finding the pleasure when that ball ripples the back of the net.
The day after the quarter-final against Ukraine, one of the teaching assistants at school called me over and pulled out an iPad. During the afternoon break, our son had, of his own accord, joined in a game with the boys in his class. Kicking the ball in the playground with joy and genuinely connecting with other children. Clip after clip of him smiling, passing the ball, and even taking a turn in goal. He was finding that common ground with those around him.
Football had given him the means to communicate and relate with others in a way that he had been unable to do until now.
This tournament was special. I don’t ever want to tell our son that my final memories of it are tainted by people whose enjoyment is drunken, wanton destruction.
I want him to know football as he has discovered it. I want him to enjoy and not destroy.
Follow Laura Lawrence on Twitter @YICETOR