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Heroes and Villains

What a month of highs and lows for the nation.

After a year and a half of pandemic lockdown, bereavement, worry, stress, confusion over rules, and general depression, the country needed a pick-me-up.

Whatever country you support, whether you like football or not, the past month, and in particular for England and Italy fans, the last week, has given us the feel-good factor we needed.

It has been a tournament of heroes:

  • those who saved a life on a football field in Denmark;

  • the volunteers checking you had the right tickets, documentation and proof of covid status at grounds;

  • those working hard to bring drinks to your table in pub beer gardens while you watched the games with joy and despair;

  • the streets (like ours) who decorated their houses in their country's colours;

  • the referees, being fair throughout;

  • the care home staff helping their residents join in too;

  • Prince George cheering a goal.

And of course the other heroes - the players - from all the countries involved, but specifically to:

  • The Danes, carrying on after one of their players nearly died on the pitch, then reaching the semi-finals;

  • The Scots, reaching their first championship finals for many years;

  • The Welsh, reaching the knockouts once again;

  • And the English team, reaching their first final in 70,071 days.

It wasn't to be for England - another penalty shoot out to add to the agony. Yet every single member of that squad - whether they played or not - on the pitch or behind the scenes - has given the country a much needed boost, and hope. Hope that things are getting better, hope that a form of normality can return.

But yet again, there are villains. Some people in this country let themselves and the nation down. Breaking into the stadium without tickets, trashing public areas, attacking loved ones in the home just because they lost, spouting racist and abusive drivel at players just because of the colour of their skin and then not scoring a penalty, and attacking Italians outside the ground. These people do not represent our nation. They spoil it for others. I hope the targeted individuals realise this, and I hope the culprits - the villains - are brought to justice.

But this isn't about them. This isn't really about football. This is about pride, hope, good vibes, being together again. This is about wellbeing. A welcome boost to our mental health.

Thank you, heroes, whether mentioned in relation to this tournament, or the many heroes that have appeared over the last year and a half. You are the ones who put the Great in Great Britain. You are the true representatives of our country.

Commiserations, England, and the other nations. You did your countries proud. You achieved, you played. You qualified. You allowed your countries to smile, to laugh, to cry, to celebrate, to gain hope. And England - you reached a final for the first time in over half a century!

And to the winners ...

Congratulazioni Italia. Ha vinto la squadra migliore.


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