BEL MOONEY: At last I get it. This is more than a game… this MATTERS

BEL MOONEY: At last I get it. This is more than a game… this MATTERS

Oh my goodness – in the sacred name of Bobby Moore, I have finally seen the light! For years I have walked in the darkness of the blindfolded, my ears stoppered against all cries of ‘Eng-er-land!’, my mouth murmuring lofty ignorance and denial. Football? Oh, my deah, not for me.

But on Saturday I itched to race away from the elegant six o’clock champagne reception at Bath’s spectacular American Museum and sprawl on the sofa with dogs, pizza, wine and the glorious sight of our team promising victory.

Of course, we couldn’t have known it would happen. But to the convert – the born-again believer – everything is possible in the name of The Flag.

On Saturday night I watched our team working in unison under the calm leadership of Gareth Southgate

My closest friends can’t believe the change in me.

But the credo is easy to understand: ‘I’m a patriot,’ I told them.

And to me, that’s simple. We’ve endured a terrible 18 months when this country was all but flattened by the virus, but also by a widespread culture of fear.

We have opened our doors and windows and scented freedom. And now the promise of our lads scoring goals in our name becomes a glorious symbol of better times ahead.

This matters.

That’s why I have suddenly ‘got’ the beautiful game.

On Saturday night I watched our team working in unison under the calm leadership of Gareth Southgate.

The Danes are determined to honour teammate Christian Eriksen, who collapsed with a cardiac arrest during their opening fixture

I marvelled at the magical speed and grace of Raheem Sterling, showing every young person that it’s possible to take control of your life and a ball and – whatever your background – become the best. I welled up at the wild ecstasy on Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson’s face when he scored his first goal for England.

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

As for Harry Kane – he could come straight from Agincourt, with that air of a medieval knight, with strong jaw and noble forehead. And in the words of Shakespeare’s Henry V: ‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. The game’s afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’ Sorry, I do get carried away.

But isn’t that the point? Football allows us to show our shared passion. It’s a great unifier and leveller, the university lecturer and the labourer wanting the same things. And, after all the nasty, rancorous trolling which (to give one example) has just objected to a bunch of primary school kids in red and white waving the flag of St George, and after a pompous elitist Labour grandee’s contempt for ‘white van man’ and his beloved flag display, now we can proudly yell: Come on, England!

Of course, this is how the Danes will be feeling too.

They too will bring passion to the pitch, especially as they are determined to honour teammate Christian Eriksen, who collapsed with a cardiac arrest during their opening fixture, and whose professional career is now almost certainly over.

The faces painted with red and white tell a very old story – because we thrive best when grounded in a sense of love and belonging

His team instinctively formed a protective ring around him and that action told us much (I reckon, as a non-expert but somebody fascinated by human nature) about modern football.

This is not about individual egotism but comradeship, discipline and intense loyalty which cannot fail to be uplifting.

That the Danes will be ‘playing for Eriksen’ will make them formidable opponents. But our team will show equal passion, playing for their manager, their devoted fans, their families, the legends of England’s footballing greats – and for England.

That’s quite a package, but isn’t that great big bundle of complex kinetic energy behind every player’s need to win?

That pent-up, cumulative passion is in the blood and sinew of every single player as he passes, enables, scores.

It’s miraculous.

Yes, I am a convert. These days I turn to the Mail’s brilliant sport pages and actually read the wisdom therein.

I’m crazy about Jack Grealish’s cute hair. I love the fact that 19-year old Bukayo Saka got straight A*s and As in his GCSEs and became a professional footballer, first for Arsenal and now for England.

I see Sterling embracing Kane and within that flash of brotherhood and joy on the television screen it is as if we are witnessing all that is possible within a country proud of itself.

What a great feeling this is – to be part of a whole. And what is it all for? The faces painted with red and white tell a very old story – because we thrive best when grounded in a sense of love and belonging with family, neighbours, locality, region, country.

So – yes! Let’s cheer for Queen, country and the flag of St George.

And beat those Danes.

Source: Read Full Article