Obviously the fact that Harry Kane scored two penalties out of two in our game against Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday does nothing to guarantee that we won’t get knocked out by Colombia, or Japan, or Senegal, on penalties, in the round of 16. I was in Gelsenkirchen (fan zone) and Lisbon when Rooney and Beckham missed. But you have to allow an England fan a little hope.
The day before the match I met a young man who works in a coffee shop in the old town.
– What colours do England wear?
– White, mostly.
– There can’t be many of you here, then. When Sweden were here the main street was nothing but blue and yellow.
Similarly, on Sunday as I walked uphill to the metro there were more red-clad Panamanians than English. Among them there seemed to be as many women as men; children and old people; a different mix from most of the groups of fans.
It seemed the same where I was in the ground.
At the first goal, though, Englishmen sprouted up in the crowd like crocuses on the first February morning of almost-spring.
(I’m now visiting a Belarussian friend. He talked about Bulgakov, about science fiction written by brothers called Strogatsky, about Turgenev. Then he asked me who my favourite writer is and I couldn’t answer. Shakespeare, provided for free on the desert island, doesn’t count. Somehow John Sandford doesn’t count either. But I wonder if it’s that question that brought on this need for simile.)
Half time, 5-0 to my team.
Fifteen years ago I took my mother to the football for the only time in her life. Anderlecht beat Westerlo 8-1. (Which may have given her a false impression.) Even then I can’t remember whether Anderlecht had scored as many as five at half time.
(She was not sport-free. She went to ice hockey in Liverpool in the late forties.)
I liked Lingard’s goal most.
I climbed up to the back of the stadium and looked about, full of joy.
Panamanian, Russian and English people who stayed for the whole game were on the again cramped and crowded train back to Moscow. They’d calculated better than me. I left the game to walk back, as I thought I had to, after 60 minutes.
Since it only ended 6-1, maybe I made the right choice.