A letter to Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Bukayo Saka, Gareth Southgate and the team
The French have a way of acknowledging their admiration of the actions of others. They say “chapeau” – which means I doff my hat to you.
Watching the contest between Italy and England last night I had very mixed feelings. The three lions have long been appropriated by a dubious group of political activists to promote their particular brand of nationalism. A win for England would undoubtedly have fed their thirst for symbols in support of their triumphalism.
What has made it even harder for me as a native Brit to bear has been the way in which the governing body of the UK has moved towards this extreme, nourishing the ugly at the expense of the wholesome. But on the other side has been an England football team that have set themselves up as a beacon of light. Individually and collectively, they have stood for behaviour and ways of being that are a million miles removed from the nastiness of Downing Street.
They have been resolute in their expression of behaviour designed to support those in need and to challenge the status quo where it needs to be challenged. And they have used the fame and influence that football has given them in ways no team has done before them. They are shining examples, not only to aspiring footballers, but to all of us.
Last night was just a football match won by the better team on the night. They happened to be a European team in one of the newly created dramas of Europe versus the UK. But this England team have come to represent so much more than a potential victory on the pitch – they represent hope, enlightenment, courage and decency. No-one who recognises these things will think twice about the result of the match, they will be focused on the emergence of a new team of leaders inspiring us all to be better versions of ourselves.
Speaking for myself, I am immensely impressed by this group of human beings – I bow to no-one, but I bow to them.