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Supporting England in any world sport is painful but not nearly as painful as supporting the English football team. It is akin to being an Arsenal fan. Arsenal fans, we know pain. Shit we’ve known decades worth of pain from a team we believe can get us to the promise land season after season, but in the end we settle for fourth, fight for fourth because it’s all we’ve ever wanted: to come to the party not necessarily to win. Being an England fan is like having the greatest sex of your life; its thrilling, its exhilarating, you’re there he’s there… and just before climax he pulls out. You know what I mean? He gets you there but doesn’t get you off. Its a bitch! And for many years this relationship has been a series of bitchiness from every England team since 1966… But this England team, the one we saw in this World Cup was something different. They are a spectacular team. Don’t get me wrong they still did not get us off, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. They tried. They wanted it. They wanted us to get off but in the end, they didn’t rise to the occasion. It’s sod’s law that when our Achilles heel Germany is out we still can’t get hit it.
I love the England football squad, most of them, but the fans I love more. They are passionate and will go the entire nine yards and beyond for their team. I have never seen a team so supported and loved and hated in all equal measures by its fans. It’s a deep love story that is worthy of a Hollywood rendition. Football brings people together in this country in a way nothing else can. Not even this Goddamn government we have. It is a unifier, a common ground, and whether you’re an avid fan like me or someone who watches sporadically along with the rest of the country in the moment. You find yourself locked in; nail biting, praying and hoping and when the heartbreak comes it’s complete; like the end of a great love affair. And it is because we were almost there.
But you see, something about this particular England team is special. Very special. They made us believe we could have it, dared us to dream, because they wanted this for themselves, but more than ever for the fans because they were fans once, fans who followed the many squads before them and witnessed the many heartbreaks we do every quarter final we did not advance, every group stage we did not win. Every Germany squad in the way of our climax. So they know what it is to be a fan and how it feels to go through that heartbreak and hope all over again. They know, and they wanted it too. Badly. They played well. Played better together than any other squad in recent years, and in these dire times when the country is falling into tatters they have given us moments to forget and come together in celebration and hope and fear and joy even if it wasn’t the ending we hoped for. This team is special. Gareth Southgate is a fantastic coach and it feels like, we have gotten it right- at last. We are there at the tip of it. We almost have it. Here’s hoping one day, in the next two years, they’ll get us off.
Cheers to the England team of the 2018 World Cup. You did us proud.