How the magic of football has bought our nation together - Laura Collins, YEP Editor
It has been hard not to be moved by the overwhelming sense of passion and pride that the Euros has encapsulated.
As the country readied itself for the Sunday showdown at Wembley the streets were lined with football fans in their England shirts and a sea of white and red flags.
And as the tournament progressed that sense of hope and optimism has been palpable as we dare to dream.
But most important of all it has bought us together at a time when we needed the power of positivity more than ever before.
We’ve all endured a difficult time over the last 18 months as we locked ourselves away to help protect the most vulnerable in society and the NHS as the pandemic swept across the globe.
Sadly many lives have been touched by grief during that time and they will never be far from our thoughts.
As a city and as a nation we came together in a way like never before to protect our loved ones and encapsulated that Blitz spirit for a common cause.
And as the restrictions have continued to ease over the last few weeks we have found ourselves uniting once more to cheer on Gareth Southgate’s Lions.
That power of positivity was needed more than ever and at the helm of driving that forward was the England manager himself who said he wanted his players to help do “positive things that we could help to change or influence in society”.
The team has been hailed for its social conscience which has seen squad members saluted for taking the knee against racism, making a stand on donating to the NHS, and taking the fight for free school meals to Downing Street.
But as well as acknowledging a forward-looking nation, Southgate - whose grandfather saw service in the Second World War - said he was keen to hail its history and values.
Speaking ahead of the match last night Gareth Southgate said: “For an island our size we’ve got an incredible influence on the world and we’ve got to keep that in a positive way.
“There are historic things that we should be proud of.
“At heart I go back to the values that my parents gave me and treating people as you would want to be treated. Just respectful, really.
“We have so many things here that we should be proud of that we probably underestimate that.”
He said: “The longer I’ve been in the role the more I’ve understood the importance for our fans of that connection with the team.
“They felt part of it and that inclusivity is really important to us because I think that’s what modern England is. We know it hasn’t always been the case and there’s historic reasons for that, but that level of tolerance and inclusion is what we have to be about moving forward.”
And it is this level of leadership that should be admired as the team have truly prided themselves on this overpowering sense of togetherness.
Ultimately it has been about winning hearts and minds - and they’ve done that with aplomb.
Whether you’re a football fan or not it has been hard not to be moved by the sheer sense of togetherness that the beautiful game has managed to evoke.
And now as our nation wakes up with the biggest of hangovers we need to look at how we can continue to channel that power of positivity going forward.
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