While they did not lift the silverware, they provided respite following 18 challenging months, they provided the sort of moral leadership that has been lacking at times from our ministers. They showed humility, grace and considerable courage in victory and defeat. They were the best of us, bringing the nation together in times of struggle.
At the start of the pandemic, it was the fallen-from-grace health secretary Matt Hancock who cast aspersions on Premier League footballers as being bad role models. Yet they were the ones who donated a chunk of their prize money to the National Health Service heroes, while Mr Hancock proved to be a lesser character than the people he’d sought to impune.
If only England’s fans could behave in the same way as the players who take to the pitch. After a fantastic tournament for England it is a huge shame that the behaviour of some fans is again making the headlines. Those sending racist abuse to black England players are a tiny fraction who do not represent the views of the vast majority. There is no room for them in society. Again, under the apparent mask of anonymity given by the internet, their hate rises to the surface.
It is up to the social media networks to aid police in finding those responsible. It is also up to the rest of us to stand up and be counted against the haters. England’s run to the final has done so much to bring this country together. And it has been an adventure that all parts of our society have got behind. Football is an inclusive sport. The West Midlands particularly is a beacon to show how football can represent all and how it should be enjoyed by all.
Such teams as Wolves and the Baggies have a proud history of diversity and inclusivity. They have been at the forefront of battling prejudice and making the game one that can be enjoyed by all.
The issue of colour has been removed from the agenda under their watch – the small-minded racists who seek to belittle others due to a pigment in their skin will never win.
The fact that there’s a debate surrounding the wearing of masks shows how far detached from reality some are. There are many millions of people with existing medical conditions for whom a mask – worn either by themselves or by another – can save a life. We wouldn’t debate the merits of whether or not wearing a seat belt is an infringement on civil liberties and so it’s puzzling why a less obtrusive device is the subject of conjecture.
We might look towards the Government for leadership, though its messages have been mixed and instead it has been left to scientists to remind us of their importance. Indeed, new research shows that wearing a mask protects both ourselves and others.
Next week the legal duty to wear one in certain situations will be removed. Anyone visiting a shopping centre will know that many people have stopped using a mask already. It is good that we are finally getting back to some sort of normality. But the data does not lie and infections are up dramatically with deaths and hospitalisations also rising. Boris Johnson may urge people to use common sense, but he must also know that the removal of legal restrictions will feed the wave.