Why “It’s Coming Home” is for everyone, and how this World Cup is the most inclusive yet.

June 28, 2018
The year is 2018. Adam off of Love Island has been accused of gas-lighting on national television by a women’s charity. Alfie Deyes isn’t a tory. Drag Queens are king. This year has been dubbed colloquially by the LGBTQ+ community as #20gayteen. So to me, it’s no surprise that this has been the most inclusive World Cup yet, despite the host nation’s campaign of hate against all things lovely and right in the world. But even closer to home are some mean boys who want to spoil all the fun for everybody else.      

I was sitting with five dynamic and intelligent women watching the England vs Panama game and it was so nice to just let the conversation, excitement and observations flow. But in other circumstances, even I, somebody who has been paid to express my opinions on football, gets anxiety which forces me to triple-check every fact, name or statistic before I so much as tweet something football related for fear of ridicule by the ‘Back-in-the-kitchen Brigade’.

This heatwave has helped with the country getting into the spirit
I tell you, that game is up there for me with my best World Cup memories, falling a few ranks below Germany’s 7-1 thrashing of Brazil, or when reigning champions Germany’s entire line up stood on the halfway line to dash forward at kick-off in a fight to stay in the competition. The World Cup is for everybody, and at its very base level, it’s cracking television. To quote Cesc Fabregas “football is fucking unbelievable”, so it was disappointing to see some of my own gender rejecting this in true contrarian-fashion. Instead, why did they feel obliged to regurgitate some misconstrued statement they had heard about the England match, claiming it wasn’t ‘good’ or enjoyable to watch? I don’t understand how anybody could feasibly watch that game and find it dull. Didn’t they know that the days of the TV-trope dumb blonde are over? 

And so I began wondering if all women or minorities watching football feel this kind of anxiety or pressure to make exactly the right witty comment at exactly the right time? That if their Dad, brother or uncle made a comment, that it must be true. Why? Because of the birth-given authority that being a cisgender male gives you to seemingly know shit about sport. But honestly, what is so wrong about just jumping up and down shouting “It’s Coming Home”?

This England side seems capable of anything, dare we dream?

With the FIFA World Cup being held in Putin’s anti-gay/black/women/disabled persons(/insert minority here) Russia, it didn’t look very positive. But then, the BBC made herstory when Vicki Sparks became our countries first ever female commentator for the World Cup. ITV and the BBC alike added women of colour to their punditry tables, so things do seem to be on the up. Both Eniola Aluko and Alex Scott boast a glittering career and have over a hundred caps each for England. Although their selection is quickly discredited as ticking boxes, filling quotas or trying to score important brownie points in what vile Twitter trolls call a “PC-crazy world”.

Vicki Sparks makes herstory
With only one openly gay male playing in England’s professional leagues, and with Manchester United having only just reinstated their women’s football team, football is not exactly the most inclusive of sports. Although, in the not so distant past people could not fathom having a black player on the pitch, and supposedly reasonable gentlemen were known to make monkey noises at anybody who tried to break the mould. But times have (mostly) changed, with the England team featuring many young black players who are rated for their playing abilities, not scorned for the colour of their skin. So why is it unreasonable to imagine a world where women sit on the punditry table giving their opinions, or for a gay player to come out and not be ridiculed for whom they happen to love?

I feel lucky to come from a family where I’ve been not only allowed but encouraged by the male figures in my life to share my opinions on football, and to just generally be a carefree fan. Also, the majority of male fans I’ve come across are fine but certain - mainly Twitter-based - individuals have been spouting their usual sexist vitriolic comments about how women/girls only pretend to like football to impress lads like them. Normally I tune out the thrum. However, one click on their profile and you will usually find further comments about how Love Island is for girls and the World Cup is for the boys, harking back to a childhood of forced pink and blue gender identities. There’s no reason that Love Island should be the Barbie to football’s Action Man. This is the real world, not the kid’s section of the toy store. 

Surely getting more and more people behind the team is nothing but a positive. My first footballing memory was of a World Cup, how about you? And why is it so unfathomable that somebody could enjoy both programmes with equal measure?

Whether somebody is a seasoned multi-league supporter or the first game they enjoyed was England down the pub the other day with a cider in hand, whether they scrutinise every statistic or are only into it ‘cause Jesse Lingard is well fit, they should be treated with equal levels of respect. It’s not like any of us are getting call-ups to join the punditry teams this summer, so we should all just let each other be. 

Football is the nation’s favourite sport for a reason, and doesn’t it feel great to be in harmony with the rest of the country? Say it with me now - It’s coming home…  

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