Euro 2012: Kicking every Ball

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As the international football scene swings into its second week of games at Euro 2012, England fans remain confident that their team can progress to the next round. It’s proclamations that seems much more reasonable after a spirited 1-1 draw with an in-form French side, but for the most part, the idea that the English national team can surprise the critics and defy expectations, seems to be constantly ingrained in the minds of the fans. A domestic pride unrivalled by all perhaps except the Irish, even when the statistics of history condemn us to an early national embarrassment.

In the last seven European Championships, England has somewhat tragically and pathetically crashed out at the Group Stage of four and in 2008 they even failed to qualify for the competition in Austria and Switzerland. It hasn't always been doom and gloom for England: under Terry Venables in 1996, England made it all the way to the semi-finals before crashing out on penalties to the Germans. Yet despite merely one year of success, long eclipsed by consistent failure from the national squad, England fans continue to remain upbeat.

‘This is our year!’ they shout, as they cheer every pass and kick every ball. The pubs fill with eager football fans clad in shirts of red and white, jostling for the best position from which to watch. People gather in droves: an army of beer-drinking, singing, chanting men ready to follow their team through a tournament of trials and tribulations; something they have long come to expect. Flags fly high from houses and shop stores, all manner of companies tactically using the football as a way of advertising their latest products. Despite the odds, the fans believe.

It becomes impossible to avoid; especially for those television soap enthusiasts who grumble and groan as their latest dose of Coronation Street is cancelled for the football. Of course, not everyone cares about the latest goal England have scored - or most likely conceded – and would rather avoid the football at all costs. The latest international football tournament is far from everyone’s cup of tea, and even those that do enjoy the sport will still mumble negatively about England’s chances.

I was just one of many that had no confidence in our chances, believing that disassociating myself from any optimistic feelings would ultimately save me the inevitable disappointment. Yet as we kicked off in Donetsk against France on Monday and subsequently played well enough to carve out a first-game draw, I felt a surge of pride, expectancy and hope that many others did at the full-time whistle, before trudging off to the bar to buy a celebratory pint. Patriotism runs deep in our blood in this country. So, even if you feel pessimistic about our chances, or are annoyed that Eastenders is not on your television screens, get behind our lads at Euro 2012, and shout ‘Come on England!’ 

Ben Johnson

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." - Ernest Hemingway.

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