Fever pitch: Football versus the culture wars

Returning to the stands for the Euros, a veteran tournament goer reflects on the tension between the sport and politics

England footballer Harry Kane (second from left) and his teammates “taking the knee” against racism before their Euro 2020 match with Scotland in London on Saturday. It has become accepted wisdom in Britain that “culture wars” always work better for the right than the left, notes the writer. But football may be an exception. A poll taken across Europe before the tournament showed 54 per cent of English football fans supported taking the knee, with 39 per cent opposed. If the England team keep winning, the number in favour may rise, along with the team’s popularity, says the writer. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

(FINANCIAL TIMES) Going to a football match in the middle of a pandemic feels like undergoing an endurance test for a reality TV show. A pre-match message instructs me to arrive at Hampden Park in Glasgow at 11am – three hours before Scotland kick off against the Czech Republic.

I must wear a mask at all times; No bags are allowed that are larger than a piece of A4 paper (why?); I must decant all food from my micro bag into a plastic bag provided by the stadium (why?). But I’d really better bring some food because I will be in the stadium for five hours – and all the catering outlets will be shut. So no rancid burgers or cartons of flat Pepsi to keep me going. 

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