And so the World Cup is upon us once again. We could talk football and the relative merits of Brazil or Germany, the benefits of different formations and whether VAR is good or bad. We could discuss the most muted build up I have ever witnessed for the England team in the lead up to a tournament. We can follow this with a discussion about whether this muted build up is due to the state of British football or whether this is another aspect of the current plight of the United Kingdom, one more dampener of our collective mood.
Personally, I choose to overlook all of this and ask instead for someone to help me. My question is, why do I do this to myself? As mentioned above, it is a muted build up, whether it be the fact that the World Cup is in Russia or that the English team don’t seem to have that single player that can unite the country, building our passion for the sport. As such, my feelings have been tempered and downplayed, I have been looking forward without getting enthusiastic. Any excitement has been down to the fact that I get to watch copious amounts of football over the course of four weeks with (hopefully) minimal complaints from my family and friends (wishful thinking, I know but we can all dream).
What I am saying is that up until yesterday my excitement surrounding the tournament was similar to the feeling in the lead up to an Olympic games or a similar event. But then, yesterday, this niggling thought crept in - maybe, just maybe, considering the fact that we are all underplaying the World Cup, could England actually achieve success? Could Gareth Southgate be creating a team, a united front, where the strength of the whole is greater than the individual’s? Could England be learning the lessons of the heroic and inspirational story of Leicester City two seasons ago, when they triumphed against all odds without any expectations on their shoulders? Is this, finally, the tournament where football does indeed come home and 52 years of hurt is swept away?
Let’s be honest and clear, all rational thought says no, most irrational thought still asks me what I am talking about and yet, there it is, just niggling away at the back of mind. Maybe… just maybe.
This is what I love about the human species. I completely accept that football, or sport in general, is a prominent example of unashamed optimism. For any sports fan, the start of a game or competition is a chance, however slim, for your chosen team to finally succeed. But I believe this is true for all of us in anything that we do.
Whether it be in the world of business, where there are currently record numbers of start-up companies where individuals are putting their dreams and lives on the line to succeed. Whether it be in personal lives, where we forge relationships, mend bridges, forgive indiscretions and build futures, where all of our hopes lean towards a better future. Or as a nation emotionally invested in the political landscape where, however bad things seem to be getting, we still believe that we will overcome obstacles and turn any situation into a triumph.
The human spirit, however much we try to downplay it, is one of optimism and belief that the end game will always result in wonderful accomplishments and a brighter future. This is something we don’t celebrate enough. After all, we are constantly reminded about Positive Mental Attitude and the influence this can have on our success. Maybe, if we paid more regular attention to this positivity as individuals and as a collective, there is so much more that can we can achieve as a race.
So I go into the World Cup pinning my hopes on the belief that “why not?”. Why shouldn’t it be England winning the tournament? One team has to win and I want to believe it will be us, I want that break from the bleak landscape that I read about or listen to in the news. I remember in 1990, when the country came together and we nearly achieved the ultimate goal (if you’ll pardon the pun) and people walked around with smiles on their faces and boundaries were broken as we celebrated. Let’s dream and hope for that same situation, have faith in success, if for no other reason than we as humans want to be optimistic, we want to believe.