Watching England play in the World Cup isn’t an easy or comfortable experience. At the back of many of our minds has to be the spectre of a penalty shootout where England put up a brave fight but ultimately lose – to Germany.
Last night the tension in The Kitchen was almost unbearable. Colombia at times seemed to be playing by a different set of rules and Harry Kane’s penalty felt well deserved after a considerable amount of jostling, headbutting and all round foul play.
Well into injury time it seemed justice was about to be done. A place in the quarter finals – all many had hoped for – was about to be secured. And Harry would once again be our Hero.
A spectacular save from Pickford was however about to be overshadowed by a goal that will have sent many an English heart sinking. The prospect of extra time loomed and subsequently our nemesis – the penalty shootout.
History however was about to be rewritten. Despite falling behind, England went on to win the shootout and progress to the last eight. Throughout the land and cyberspace fans clapped and cheered and with almost one voice declared again “It’s coming come” and “We still believe”.
Gareth Southgate more than any other seems to epitomise this optimism, strength and belief. Clearly he has a depth of experience to draw upon, and knowledge of what it means to fail. His post match interviews show intelligence, self awareness, analysis and a determination to move forward with learning and optimism.
At The Kitchen we make no apology for our unashamed support of England. We have proudly proclaimed for many weeks that “It’s coming home” and “We still believe”. Harry Kane cupcakes have been flying off the counter.
But do we?
There is no reason at all why England cannot win the World Cup. All they – or we – have to do is this. Put the ball into their opponents net more times than they let the ball into theirs (ours).
Of course the opposition will vary in their speed, skill and expertise. Conditions will vary as will the strength of the England team depending on many factors including age. experience and fitness. But with hard work, determination and the right combination of factors including perhaps a dose of good luck the goal is within reach – so why not believe? What benefit comes from taking a surly negative view such as “We never win” “We always lose” “We’re rubbish” or “We always lose on penalties”.
Football isn’t just a game. As Bill Shankly famously once said “‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
Just last night England manager Gareth Southgate said “When something goes wrong in your life it doesn’t finish you, and you should become braver, knowing that you’ve got to go for things in life and don’t regret because you didn’t try to be as good as you might be.”
Belief. What is it? As a child I was asked to memorise a poem that began “Faith is to believe when you cannot see” and at times I’ve asked myself is that foolish? Without hard evidence what does belief really matter? Is it just a subjective opinion, with faith even more of a risk if it means staking something on an unfounded belief?
But to turn things around can belief actually be a powerful and energetic force for good? Can it motivate and inspire us? Can we look at a situation that seems impossible or insurmountable and decide that we won’t let it overcome or defeat us? Can we take that a step further and have faith – or keep the faith – believing something is possible even if the circumstances would suggest otherwise?
A fair amount to think about and from the perspective of a small owner something of a challenge with regard to how we view things. Meanwhile we hope, pray, believe and have faith in Gareth, Harry, Jordan and the rest of the team this Saturday.