We got through
It wasn’t altogether unsurprising to observe a number of people under the influence of alcohol stumble their way through crowds of World Cup deniers at Waterloo station.
One man – desperately shovelling a sausage and chips into his mouth as he negotiated the escalator – narrowly escaped an incident with the tired commuters behind him when he first mis-stepped and then fell back onto them.
As it happens, it wasn’t that much of an inconvenience to anyone. It didn’t even fuel my usual reliance on sneering condescension. (Such a trait is reserved solely for the Eurovision.)
In fact, contrary to my poor attempt at distancing myself from England’s crucial first round World Cup match with Slovenia this afternoon, it was actually rather nice to see so many happy drunks around.
Happy drunks are nice. They magnify what we all feel regardless of whether or not we like the supposedly beautiful game. Without even realising it, those happy drunks sum up the heady concoction of disappointment, desperation and subsequent relief we all experience to a greater or lesser extent.
England has got through to the next round. This doesn’t mean it’s all downhill from now on. In fact, I’m almost certain the next match will be just as stressful for us back home as it’s potentially mortifying for all those fans who’ve shelled out thousands of pounds to be in South Africa for the tournament. If they end up facing intense disappointment I’d advocate they avoid the bars and do some sightseeing instead.
But if we do get through the next round, England and its followers have a bit of a problem. Considering the strength of feeling whipped up or reflected by the media (depending on how you look at it), quite how any future England successes in the 2010 tournament will be explained away is a tough one.
Because even in my fantastical mind, I find it difficult to believe that the England team can turn things around to the extent they’ll need to to satisfy the most hardened of football fans. England will be tarnished by the first week and a bit of the tournament. Miracles don’t eclipse that kind of bad press. England going further in the tournament will always be ‘by the skin of our teeth’.
And I can draw on evidence of this from an exchange in the changing rooms at the gym at the end of the match.
“Did we win?” I asked the man decked out in his England strip tied up his laces.
“Oh yes,” he smiled, “We won.”
“That’s good then. We all got through. Good.”
“It wasn’t a convincing win though.”
“My God,” I said without a moments thought. “You football fans are never happy, are you?”