Sport has the power to unite – and make us all walk a little taller | Blaise Tapp
There’s been a spring in the step of the English during the past few weeks, a collective optimism that I’ve not personally experienced since 2012 and our Olympic summer.
I was fortunate enough to get tickets for those Games, albeit to watch elite-level judo for the first time ever, and the memories of the carnival atmosphere in our capital back then will live with me for a lifetime.
Despite my best efforts to get tickets, I couldn’t bag myself a seat in the Olympic Stadium, and our visit came 24 hours before Super Saturday, a day when Team GB athletes won six gold medals, including three on the track in the space of just 44 minutes.
It wasn’t even a case of me being nearly there that evening because by the time Mo Farah glided across the finish line I was 190 miles away, sitting on our sofa in my pants while tucking into a special chow mein.
Some people never forget a face – I can recall pretty much every detail of every meal I have consumed.
The sense of elation and national pride I felt at that glorious moment was enough for me to propel my spring rolls and salt and pepper squid into orbit although there was more than a hint of a regret that I wasn’t trackside to witness British athletics’ finest three-quarters of an hour.
Fast forward nine years and there was a similar degree of envy towards the lucky devils inside of Wembley to witness England’s biggest night on a football pitch in 55 years.
However, the green-eyed monster was sent packing as soon as this branch of the Tapp clan settled down to watch a moment in English history that will live long in the memory.
The emotional scenes before, during, and after the game on Sunday night were more than a reaction to what was ultimately an agonising defeat but, despite the crushing result, it represented progress we can all be proud of.
Whenever the country excels in the sporting arena be it significant Olympic successes, the rugby World Cup triumph in 2003, or dramatic Ashes wins, the nation unites, even if it is a case of having something other than the weather to discuss with the bloke at the petrol station.
The past few weeks have been different because Gareth Southgate and his team have not only given us genuine hope of a brighter footballing future but they’ve helped give the English people their mojo back, even though it ended with crushing disappointment.
The St George’s Flag is no longer associated with people who live off Pot Noodles and think booing other countries’ national anthems is something to be proud of and has been reclaimed by the young lions for the people.
It’s been the most miserable of 16 months and the Euros provided everybody with a distraction for four weeks.
At the start, although I harboured hopes of England perhaps making the semi-finals, but was simply delighted by the prospect of having 51 games of football to watch in the summer.
What our national side achieved by reaching a first European final shouldn’t be overlooked, especially due to the fact that it made many of us smile again.
There has been some disquiet that politicians such as the prime minister, leader of the opposition, and the home secretary have sought to associate themselves with the team’s epic journey to the final.
But what do they honestly expect?
Politicians instinctively tap into the zeitgeist and naturally tap into it and why wouldn’t they?
Perhaps the only consolation is that defeat meant we were spared the sight of Boris prancing down Downing Street to the strains of Three Lions while announcing an extra bank holiday in August.
Past experience tells us that recovering from an English penalty shoot-out defeat is generally painful but at least we can be thankful that we are walking a bit taller than we were a month ago.