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Thursday, 6 November 2014

A Poem About England v Germany, Euro 96

England v Germany, Euro 96.

For weeks our school had teemed with pride.
Teachers seemed to smile that little bit more,
and when we beat Spain on penalties
we wore our football shirts the next day.
The walls of our hall pulsated with Three Lions
during singing assembly, and in the playground
we were Shearer, we were Gazza,
we were Seaman, Ince and Adams.

My friend said it was the same at his school,
and when my dad wore his kit to work
I knew I was part of something big.
All that day cars rolled by like tanks,
with windows open and horns blaring
and little flags fluttering from aerials.
Strangers high-fived and hugged in the street.
The whole country had one heartbeat,
our lungs balloons of red and white
expanding with excitement.

The tabloids said it was World War Three,
and for ten year old me in my living room
it was hard to disagree.
The players sang God Save the Queen
and people clapped and cheered,
sending them off into battle.
My mum and I scanned the faces in the crowd,
hoping to find my dad.
He’d gone to the football after work,
and said I was too young to go.

Mum hid in the bathroom during the penalties.
She couldn’t take the tension, she said.
She’d always hated football, but we both knew
that this wasn’t really football anymore.
And even though I knew that it wasn’t really war –
that our lives would carry on exactly as before –
Gareth Southgate’s small white flag
hit me like a caveman’s club.

Dad came home later telling tales of defeat,
of discarded flags lying limp in the street;
of headlines scattered by dejected feet
and crowds shuffling home in silence.
A few, he said, tried to stem the tide
by singing all the old songs one last time,
but it no longer felt right.
Failure embraced them like an old mate.

It was the same in school the next day.
Nobody felt like going outside at lunch.
“I cried last night”, boasted Sam.
“Me too”, said Dan. "And me", said Joel.
Rick told how he sat with his head in his hands,
in his St George’s pants and England dressing gown,
wailing a lion’s tears into his football scarf.
James said he cried so much he wet himself.
Then we had a few second’s silence.