Neil Smith

3 months ago · 3 min. reading time · visibility ~100 ·

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Oh, wad some power the Giftie gie us.


The Euros are over. The final was a bit blah but the pre-match favourites and better team on the night won, and so England should be able to celebrate their best men’s championship outcome for over half a century and anticipate the next few years of watching this team mature and improve. 

Across the pitch England were almost but not quite as good as they needed to be. The Goalkeepers were similarly good. The defences were similarly stingy the attack similarly creative. A good draw and some very good performances took the England team to a position that was far from guaranteed, prior to the tournament kicking off. 

Given that some of this highly experienced Italian team have played their last game for the Azzurri and more will be gone before the World Cup it is all the more impressive that a team featuring several debutants and young players, played them to a standstill after two hours of football. 

So now we, people around the world get to stand back and witness near universal appreciation and goodwill toward the team from a happy populace. 

Or not. 

Our TVs and media streams instead are filled with images of thugs rioting across London, an assault on Wembley stadium coke being snorted in the stadium and racist abuse being flung at the black players who missed their penalties.

 Politicians covering their arses are now trying to distance themselves from the dogs they whistled to and the game, the tournament and the rare instance of over-achievement by an English football team is cheapened and forgotten. 

Well done, England, well done.

Sadder than the spectacle was the inevitability of it. ‘If they lose, they’ll tear the place apart’ was one local’s comment here in Wicklow. ‘Sure, they’ll likely do that anyway if they lose or not’ came his mate’s reply.

My German friends are always bemused by the war obsession of English football fans who were never a witness to its reality. A poor German team did badly but no one is having to hire extra security in München. ‘There will be other tournaments’ seems to be the collective response.

Many people from Scotland who publicly supported England, now feel badly disappointed at the reaction and feel less positive about cheering on the neighbours in future. 

Like it or not, and many clearly won’t, this face is the face that today’s England presents and it is how the country is seen by the World. Entitled, insular, drunk, incapable of simple enjoyment, violent and much else besides. Not much of it is positive. 

The team and their performance on the pitch was a shining beacon of modernity that has now been dimmed under the onslaught of toxic, incompetent racists who felt that the title should have been given to them ‘just because’.

I have spent a lot of time in England. Worked in London and several other places and have many English friends so when I see a post on Facebook saying that ‘this isn’t all of us’ or ‘it’ only a few scumbags’, I know that that is true but it cuts no ice.

It is enough people. They are high profile and loud on social media and they have the tacit support of a government which sees the mob as a controllable bunch of ‘useful idiots’ as Lenin allegedly said.

Many years ago, this was Scottish football fans. Drunkenly rampaging around London and elsewhere throughout the seventies and eighties leaving carnage and tears in their wake. It did the team no good and it did our nation no good. 

To their credit the SFA worked with councils, transport companies and government to help bring about change. It took a while and there is always a sense in which this is a work in progress but the change is massive. 

It’s not perfect but when Scots fans gathered in central London, they left it a mess without loads of fighting, smashed windows and attacks on the general public. 

No one can be happy about the mess but Sunday showed how much worse it could have been. 

So here is your real challenge England. Can you turn the country around? Can the backward-looking mindset of ‘Two world wars and one world cup’ be buried in the past or will a determined denial of loss of empire prevent progress on all sorts of fronts. 

Can the spirit of the post-war settlement, fought for by brave people, rise once again over the petty nationalism and bigotry of those who have sacrificed nothing for the betterment of their people or anything else? 

If England can’t move forward then the Union falls and international relationships and alliances fall also. A positive future depends upon cooperation as opposed to enmity.

The team did great on the pitch and deserve respect. The greater challenge now is to show the world that the country represented by those footballers is equally deserving of respect.


The title is a line from the Burns poem ‘To a louse.’ The central human character is a young lady who believes that the whispers and pointing fingers of the congregation are because she dares to wear a particularly fancy and colourful hat in church. 

The sniggering alas is more to do with the highly visible louse crawling all over her prideful headwear. It is a wonderful reminder that how we view ourselves from the inside isn’t necessarily how others perceive us.

The header photo is from the Telegraph of India and accompanied an article about mobs of English hooligans ambushing Italian fans outside Wembley stadium. Similar articles appeared in newspapers from; Australia, Japan, Canada, South Africa and pretty much anywhere else you can think of. Sadly.

group_work in Café beBee and in 2 more groups

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Debasish Majumder

2 months ago #12

@Neil Smith this is the buzz of distinction. enjoyed read and shared. thank you very much for the buzz.

Debasish Majumder

2 months ago #11

excellent and cogent buzz @Javier 🐝 CR ! enjoyed read ad shared. thank you for the buzz.

Neil Smith

2 months ago #10

Zacharias 🐝 Voulgaris

2 months ago #9

It is indeed sad that a minority of fans ends up bringing down with it a country that has offered so much in both Science and Literature. That small group of fanatics has degraded the heroism of the English team into yet another athletic conflict that came to be unsuccessful. How far are they from the spirit of truly competitive sports whereby athletes transcend themselves to express the higher values of their country…

Neil Smith

2 months ago #8

Pascal Derrien

2 months ago #7

Not the best show case from English football fans not the first and not the last time I am afraid. English football has been plagued for decades by this type of behaviour

Neil Smith

3 months ago #6

Ken Boddie

3 months ago #5

Neil Smith

3 months ago #4

Ken Boddie

3 months ago #3

Back in the day, Neil, when a kid in Scotland, and then in my early career in England, you couldn’t drag me to a soccer match, such was the prevalence of the soccer hooligan. Even back in my school days, however, I had a preference for playing and watching rugby, which was consolidated by 5 years in All Black Kiwiland. These days in Oz I’m lucky enough to enjoy frequent matches of various ball shapes in one or other of our world class Brisbane or Gold Coast stadiums, where it is truly enjoyable family entertainment and the worst offenders in the crowd are those who display occasional outbursts of booing. Oz is by no means free of its share of sports arena antics, but most protagonists of misbehaviour (both inside and outside the stadium) appear to be spirited larricans intent on comical banter rather than hooligans intent on destruction. A well told insight, Neil, of a sad state of affairs. I wonder what Rabbie Burns would say in his Ode to Fitba’?

Neil Smith

3 months ago #2

John Rylance

3 months ago #1

I enjoyed watching the matches where no fans were present. Mainly because I could concentrate on the football not what some of the crowd were doing or saying.

To my mind those matches that took place without fans were as hotly contested as ones with a crowd, The only thing missing was the before during and after a match mayhem caused by those who thought that not only should the match kick off, but they should kick off often literally themselves.

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