How The World Cup Brought Us Closer Together
As the clock approached the 70 minute mark, what had started off as a joke started to become a reality. I readily admit that, as Russia kicked off the World Cup by beating Saudi Arabia, I wasn’t convinced that the England team would amount to much this year with Italia 90 still our best effort in my lifetime.
The legacy of previous tournaments and the malaise surrounding the team generally meant I was more looking forward to discovering new players I’d never heard of before. I planned to spend a lot of time watching the England games in an old local pub of mine with pals who I'd watched previous tournaments with. It brought back memories of 7am beers and breakfasts before heading off to exams in 2002, and the crushing blow from 2006 when the golden generation lost - yet again - on penalties despite giving their best performance of the tournament with only 10 men.
Something Started To Change
But, on one hot Sunday lunchtime, I started to sense something was different this time. The décor hadn’t changed, but something else had. No longer were the England team cursed by punters because of the clubs they played for, the colour of their skin, or the stories written about them in the press. Instead, families came out together to cheer on the youngest squad in the tournament who started to write their own history. Old friends bumped into each other at the bar, new friends were made and invites to evening BBQ’s shared. “It’s Coming Home” was used as a greeting, a good bye, an introduction, a closing statement.
Perhaps we’ve been polarised by politics for too long that, when we found a common dominator, we were destined to come together and forget what drove us apart? Maybe we’ve had so much negative press surrounding the England team that we’re now immune to it and form our own opinions based on what we see? The glorious 4 week stretch of hot weather and beautiful sunshine we’ve had has helped too. Who wants to go home when dusk is setting in at 10pm and England have FINALLY WON A PENALTY SHOOTOUT?! This was the party that everyone was invited to and no-one wanted to leave.
A More Social Nation
As humans, we crave social interaction. Despite millennials being the most connected generation, 86% are incredibly lonely. If we don’t talk to each other, how on earth will we make the world a better place for our children’s children?
But the World Cup has got us, as a nation, talking. People who don’t even like football have been watching and talking about it. We’ve become friendlier, happier and more productive because we’re talking – just think how easier it’s been for all those sales professionals embarking on a cold calling session to simply mention how ENGLAND WON A PENALTY SHOOTOUT! (have I mentioned that already?)
Breaking Down Barriers
Further afield in Russia, Google Translate has helped break down language barriers between this year's hosts and their guests. When a local Russian fan wants to ask how many games you’ve been watching, who your favourite player is, what's the best goal you’ve ever seen is, we’re breaking down international barriers. The approving nods, claps, screams and sighs from watching the game build a shared interest. We recognise that all humans are the same no matter where we’re from or what we look like. We create lasting memories and make new friends who we can keep in touch with online. If Facebook and Google Translate are the technologies by which we grow and maintain these treasured moments then who are we to argue?
A peak audience of 19.64 million watched England vs Sweden on a sweltering Saturday afternoon. The numbers were even higher for the semi-final. And then for one moment as the clock approached the 70 minute mark, we collectively started to think that our joke, our dream, might become a reality. The tension increased, the chatter died down, the agony shared. Every kick and every save was cheered like a goal as we edged closer. But, just like all good dreams, we woke up before the end. The ‘what if’s, the ‘could have’s and ‘should have’s, are packed up and stored away for another time.
The England team may not have brought the World Cup home, but they helped a nation remember that we’re far happier as human beings when we’re talking, connecting, creating and sharing stories to remember in 28 years time.
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