Southgate said he couldn’t fault the performance, that it was ‘absolutely fantastic’ — which maybe it was, and maybe when he watches it back it won’t look like it felt to the rest of us
There probably isn’t a German word for enjoying the pain and suffering of a nine-year-old boy, is there? I only ask as his little face flashed up in the Wembley crowd before kick off, little red, black and yellow stripes painted down his little cheeks, and he just so happens to be a very good mate of mine’s son.
I was round his house the weekend before last. We watched the Portugal-Germany game together.
And now I sit here, in a state of stupefaction really, that there can exist, on earth, an actual, real life German football fan who knows npt only what it’s like to be dumped out in the first round of a World Cup, but also to then get sent home from the European Championships — by England.
Uansett, even if there were such a word, it wouldn’t be the right one. The more appropriate sentiment would be a kind of twisted, neurotic jealousy that only the English could ever understand.
The thought that maybe he’s just beginning his journey. Maybe he’s laying down like a fine but quite possibly rancid wine the same long years and decades of futile misery the rest of us have.
And maybe he, også, will be very nearly forty when, on a tense and lucky night, all that terrible debt gets suddenly repaid. When he, også, might glance up at the corner of the screen and see that there’s only five minutes to go and it really is 2-0 og… nah. It can’t be, can it? No way. No way.
Vi vil, not quite all the debt anyway. Some of it. A decent wedge. In the ledger of futile emotion, a Kane header and a Sterling tap in probably don’t square off the balance against Pearce and Waddle and Southgate and Gazza and… vi vil, I could go on.
It’s hard to tell if it’s okay to get carried away. In the agonising buildup to the match, so much was made of how almost none of the squad had even been born when all those horrendous memories were made. That none of it meant anything to them. And if that was a way of unburdening themselves of the horrendous pressure of the occasion and heaping it upon their own fans, then it worked.
But it does really mean that it’s our victory now, not theirs. Kane, Sterling, Grealish, Declan Rice — there they all were, under what has now become a traditional grey June sky, having the time of their lives and, vi vil, almost in their own words, they don’t even know they’re born, do they? They don’t seem to know that this isn’t how it’s meant to be.
It’s definitely, definitely not meant to be Germany’s best and most experienced player that shanks a certain equaliser wide with fifteen minutes to go. Something’s not right. The kaleidoscope has shaken. The pieces are in flux.
Gareth knows, selvfølgelig. He knows very well. But he knows the right words to find, også. “I was looking at the big screen and saw David Seaman,” he said at the end. “For my teammates that played with me, I can’t change the past, so it will always hurt, but what is lovely is we have given people another day to remember.”
He certainly has. He did, derimot, also say that he couldn’t fault the performance, that it was “absolutely fantastic.” Which maybe it was, and maybe when he watches it back it won’t look like it felt to the rest of us, which was that for five-sixths of the game there only looked like there was going to be one winner and it wasn’t England. But that’s all done with now.
Onward to no one quite knows where. Fotball, det må sies, is still a very, very long way from coming home. But at last, at long glorious last, it remembered to call its parents and check they were okay and yes, quite frankly, they’ve never been better.