'United by the England football team and the drug of national pride'

Fans watch the England v Scotland UEFA Euro 2020 match at Vinegar Yard, London. Picture date: Friday

Fans watch the England v Scotland UEFA Euro 2020 - Credit: PA Images

Recently there’s not been tons to cheer about.

The three years since England gracefully bowed out of the World Cup have been defined by yes/no problems that have left us more divided than ever. Mask, no mask. Stay in Europe, leave Europe (still). With both sides of the campaign trail drawn towards insurrection, what is there to be proud of?

For many, national pride is a drug. But not just a drug, an outlet, a card to be best played when suspended in the deep end of politics. For others though, it's just a way to bail out of a conversation worth having. Fortunately every two years, protocol dictates that these differences are set aside.

Oliver Shasha, bassist FEET, says the band were on the cusp of a 'breakthrough' tour before the pand

Oliver Shasha wonders about the future of the cinema - Credit: Oliver Shasha

For a fraction of time, I, like many others am able to see the country through rose-tinted-glasses, as that same drug finds its way into the national ecosystem. England are at a major tournament. Our qualms with neighbours are extinguished overnight. The previous stress of daily conflict is flipped on its head as we find ourselves clasping the enemies of hours previous over a narrow 1-0 victory against Croatia.

The social changes that occur during an international football tournament are a total anomaly of the current zeitgeist. They represent an undressing of political conflict in the name of ball-kicking. Watching on as a wave of tribalism and togetherness sweeps away a vast undercurrent of national woes, why was it we were fighting in the first place?

I’ve always considered football as my anchor, my way of staying in touch with the majority. But more than that, every 24 months we, as a nation, flirt with the idea of coexistence. It’s an exercise that denounces a system that divides us so intrinsically that something so innate and banal as a 26-man squad and a middle aged man in a waistcoat is the only antidote to a system that breeds marginalisation and scorn.

With England (the football team) there lies evidence that there are seeds for greater harmony in our bitter, fragmented little country. However, the powers that be fail to endorse any rhetoric that encourages anything other than division, and so for now we’ll have to accept that for just one month out of 24, we can all be friends.

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Oliver Shasha is bassist with the band FEET and a Muswell Hill resident.