I love a World cup summer and I will watch every game I can. I’ve always been a big football fan and until our move to the seaside I was a season ticket holder at Bristol City. I’m not a huge premier league fan, that’s a whole different game, I’ve always followed lower league teams as the football community here feels a bit different and real.
My expectations for Russia 2018 were pretty low, I thought that given the reputation of some Russian ultra fans and recent problems that hooliganism would be rife. There has been no hint of such violence and I’ve also enjoyed exploring Russia through the different venues, the hard, grey cities I imagined have been replaced by venues such as Samara which looked a lovely seaside city.
This has been the first World cup in which Little Man has been really interested in, he has collected his Panini cards, adorned his bedroom wall with posters, worn his England top and been able to talk about the teams and games with confidence. His enthusiasm has been infectious, from day 1 he believed in the England team. He had none of the cynicism and weariness of the adults and it was refreshing to see the game I love through such innocent eyes. Little Man taught me about the players as he knew all the facts like names, clubs, age etc. These players are his new heroes. It was also the first World cup when Little Man got to go to a bar to see the game on a big screen and the fun of all the oohs, argghs and cheers, he loved it. I also liked that we were at Grandad’s for the Panama game and all the goals and my parents watched the semi final with us too, football is about community and sharing the experience. Whilst my daughter has watched the football too, she has definitely preferred the social aspect of meeting up with friends. She doesn’t dislike football, she simply prefers to play.
Sad as I am to admit it, I knew very little about the England team before they left, a team of young, internationally inexperienced players. I was hoping they would progress through the group stages, gain some experience in a big tournament and be ready to really compete at Euro 2020. Generally I think lots held similar thoughts, for once the media hadn’t hyped up the team and I think that’s why what happened seems rather magical, the England team just quietly and diligently worked hard on playing football. As the results came in, the feeling of excitement blossomed, here was something new, a team of youth, with grace, talent and skill unburdened by expectations. We also grew to love the quiet humility, determination and hard work of our manager, Gareth Southgate, an unexpected appointment which now seems genius. It was a lovely feeling to experience and I’m so pleased that Little Man got to experience such a positive World cup by England as his first real tournament.
The World cup comes to a close this weekend and its been brilliant, new teams have emerged, the old footballing contenders were knocked out early, VAR has caused some controversy in the early games and the country has united behind our team again. Its been a memorable tournament and I’m so proud that although we may not have brought the World cup home (but came so close) the England team have brought football home in reigniting our love for the beautiful game.