12th July 2021

By the time you read this, we will know whether the England men’s football team has indeed ended those 55 years of hurt. At the time of writing I (like a lot of other people!) am fervently hoping they will: a win on Sunday night will bring so much joy to so many people after a very difficult eighteen months.

But win or lose, this England squad has already provided plenty of causes for pleasure and pride, not least in their activities off the pitch. Two of them have been awarded MBEs specifically for their work for social and racial justice: Marcus Rashford for services to vulnerable children during the Covid pandemic and Rasheem Sterling for services to racial equality. Jordan Henderson, who was awarded the honour for services to football and charity, appears to be the driving force behind a planned second major donation by English football players to NHS charities after the Euros. Led by a manager whose own earlier disappointments have made him a model of resilience and empathy, these players have coalesced into a diverse, inclusive, and ultimately inspiring young community who are not afraid to use their platform to express their values – even in the face of booing and online vitriol from some who claim to be their ardent fans.

How willing are we to go public with our own values and faith? ‘Will you risk the hostile stare / Should your life attract or scare?’ (Bell / Maule, ‘The Summons’). Perhaps the lesson we should take from this England squad is that it’s easier – and has more impact – when it’s a team effort.

Debbie Pinfold