I’m not a big football fan. I’m not ok with immoral amounts of money for kicking a ball around and the way that it dominates people’s lives. Rich sometimes checks his phone and reacts in such a way that I think something dreadful has happened; “it has” he says, “West Ham are a goal down”.
But with three boys already being indoctrinated, I’m prepared to get involved on high days and holidays. Especially when Wales have qualified. And a collection of people unifying behind a common goal (pun intended) is one of my weaknesses. I don’t know where it comes from, but just like Payet who came off in tears after scoring the winning goal for France in the opening game on his home turf; the emotion of the collective is overwhelming.
We’ve loved the build up to the tournament, it’s been a family affair; the boys have been earning and trading stickers for their panini album, we’ve got two wall charts, immediately filled in after each result and matches have been full of audience participation. They’ve driven us mad with songs from the stands. They know loads of the players. They argue over who is going to be Bale, Payet and Sigurðsson. We had so much fun watching the Wales v Slovakia game, randomly bursting into song, dancing and jumping. Wales’ stunning win was topped only by 5yo bursting back in the room at full time, completely naked, shouting: “Winners! Winners!”
Earlier in the evening we were talking about how fantastic it would be to take the kids to an event like that. I used to go to football as a kid with my dad to watch Swansea, bribed with a Curly Wurly, and turns with my sister on his shoulders. That was in the days of crowds in stands and we were taught to raise our arms in front of our chests to protect our lungs as the fans piled out of the Vetch. I still do it in crowds but I haven’t often felt in real danger.
I’ve imagined the fear of this dad stuck in the stadium. From the excitement of the spectacle turning to cold fear as the scene unfolded. It kept me awake for hours last night, trawling twitter for updates, going over how frightening those circumstances must be. Bar brawls are one thing, but watching a scene erupt into violence, while clinging onto your kids, with no way out, is the stuff my nightmares are made of.
I was quite taken this week by the idea that we could be an elaborate virtual reality game. Perhaps it would explain the inexplicable violence. That perhaps our species will naturally self destruct, no matter how many opportunities we are given. That we never learn.
When the second of our three boys was born, and by chance, most of our friends had also had boys, someone said to me: “all these boys being born; it’s going to be a big war”. That has burrowed into my mind for years as I wonder whether she meant that lots of boys will automatically create war, or that war is inevitable and the boys will pay the price. Violence is so accepted in our world that it is expected, even when looking into the face of a new born baby.