The pettiness of the whole thing is exactly why we love football isn’t it? We come together to support a team and that becomes our community. But, in forming this community, we also create an other (usually guys just like us who have the audacity to come from a different post code) and it’s really fun to hate them.
Scottish football fans not liking English football fans is this in a nutshell. So, when Gianluigi Donnarumma saved from Bukayo Saka to send Italy to glory, a smug smile should have appeared on my face. It didn’t – I mean I’m not going to lie there was a fierce wave of relief – but there wasn’t really any enjoyment.
Maybe the reason for this was because this England team is full of really good blokes who I actually wanted to see do well. They’re a team of characters like Rashford, who feeds thousands of kids in his spare time; Sterling, who shines as a beacon in the fight to eradicate racism in football, and Kane, who has wordlessly represented the LGBTQ+ community every time he’s put on the captain’s armband.
As much as I’d like to appear to be a bastion of virtuousness, that wasn’t the reason.
Maybe it was because penalties don’t seem like a proper way to lose a major international final. It’s not like they’re the ultimate proof that one team is better than the other – an absolutely dreadful team could still be good at penalties and conceivably win a tournament. Also, if penalties didn’t exist then maybe I wouldn’t have been laughed out of school the day after Arsenal went out to Bradford in the League Cup.
Having said that, if penalties didn’t exist then maybe Scotland wouldn’t have got to the Euros. So, that wasn’t the reason either.
Let’s be honest, the reason I didn’t feel happy was because it was Saka who missed the crucial penalty. This was pretty obvious. I mean, look at his face. Look at this picture of him on that inflatable unicorn. It’s unbridled joy.
Saka’s meteoric rise from “probably not in the squad to be honest mate – Ward-Prowse a much better option” to “actual starter” was the highlight of the Euros (sorry Andreas Christensen vs Russia). But what was also very fun was getting to share him with people who had previously had no idea who he was or how good at association football he is.
There now is an entire nation that is better off because they’ve been exposed to the existence of Saka. I’m still sort of jealous of all the people that have just got to experience him for the first time, which is PROBABLY a bit weird but there we go… I mean it’s a jealousy that probably stems from the fact that I got to watch his Premier League debut and all he did in that was not be passed to by Sead Kolasinac.
I’m not sorry he missed on Sunday and it weirdly doesn’t have much to do with the fact that I wanted England to lose. He missed and we all get to share him a bit more. I’m all for it. His name is now emblazoned on a Jason Sudeikis t-shirt and “Bukayo Saka actually got 4 * and 3As at GCSE don’t you know” is the new “Well actually Frank Lampard got an A* in A-level Latin”.
There are a lot of people that don’t deserve him, but I’m not fussed. I’m all for sharing round a bit of Saka. He’s a hero, he always will be and now he’s going to come back stronger.
DISCLAIMER: Author will retract last statement when Bukayo Saka goes to play inverted-auxiliary-reserve-left-back at Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City for £60m.
Freelance journalist and Arsenal fan from Scotland living in London. Jose Antonio Reyes advocate. Inspirer of Arsenal hate art from an ex-girlfriend. Please read my things.