Wednesday, February 20, 2019

World Cup brings England together at a time of division

  • >>Ceylan Yeginsu, The New York Times
    Published: 2018-07-11 21:34:50 BdST

Supporters of team England gather before the match in the city centre. Reuters

In the giddy aftermath of England’s 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Sweden in the World Cup on Saturday, Andy Ward staggered out of a pub and into a tattoo parlour. He stripped off his shirt and bared his chest to a shaver. Then a tattoo artist etched St George’s Cross — the English flag — over his heart.

Ward, 51, a decorator, concedes he might have been a bit tipsy at the time. But he doesn’t regret his decision, at all.

“No one expected this,” he said Monday, sipping a pint at a southwest London pub and showing off his new tattoo. “We only dreamed of getting so far. We’re not used to this kind of success.”

He was talking about the fact that England has not won the World Cup since 1966 — and, more recently, has endured one World Cup disappointment after another. Suddenly, a young, dynamic team led by a manager who has become an unexpected national hero is two wins away from reclaiming the cup, while England, which has been cleaved by politics and has not had much to celebrate of late, is going, well, nuts.

So nuts, in fact, that in a week when the government of Prime Minister Theresa May has been plunged into new chaos — with ministers resigning and the fate of the country’s effort to exit the European Union more uncertain than ever — much of the nation seems determined to take a timeout from the acrimonious politics and bask in something recently in short supply: Unity, not to mention blind hope.

“This World Cup feels like a distraction from everything,” said Michael Gibbons, 44, author of “When Football Came Home: England, the English and Euro 96” who ticked off a list of tragedies last year, such as the deadly fire at the Grenfell Tower housing block in London, or the terror attacks in Manchester and London — not to mention the ugly aftermath of the Brexit vote.

“The divisiveness over the Brexit vote and what that has done to society is obvious,” he said, adding: “So the England run has been a kind of serotonin to all of that.”

© 2018 New York Times News Service