As I write this, Germany have just won the FIFA World Cup. Congratulations to them, their victory is thoroughly deserved. They have been (until tonight anyway because the game was a bit dull) inspiring to watch and demonstrating class, superior tactics and solid teamwork. This short vignette in honour of The Beautiful Game is about the day my home team Swindon Town made it into the Premier League, but it could equally apply to any team making it to a final of a major tournament.
That distinct buzz – there’s nothing like it… it’s similar to your wedding day or the day of your graduation but for none of those things will you have a whole town celebrating with you. The streets are lined with flags (in this case red and white) but they could be any colour. Not just the streets, but on the Town Hall, lining the main road into the town, on roundabouts, hanging from windows, from cars. Yes, everybody knows what today means and everybody is in such high spirits – the cheers carry far and wide.
That journey home, the ecstasy as you reminisce with those you’ve travelled with of what you have just witnessed. Singing, cheering and pondering on what will happen next. Forget it, for the moment you can revel in your glory. As you approach your home town, the motorway bridges fill with people and flags, merely hinting of the welcome you are about to receive.
The roads are full and the traffic moves at 5 miles an hour at the arriving army of supporters and those who couldn’t go line the streets to share your homecoming joy. Car horns, fog horns, shouts, cheers, applause; strangers show their shirts to each other, wave to each other and raise bottles in cheer – they’ll be downing a few more tonight! Today is the day you will always remember. It is the day strangers become friends, if only for a moment. A town joins together in celebration of when the Captain raised the trophy. The cheers began then and they will last for days.
The drinks will flow that night, my god there will be some hangovers in the morning but for now you truly understand the ecstasy of sport, you see how it unites so fully and unreservedly and you remember the words of Bill Shankley: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”