Why the World Cup is about so much more than football

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It’s coming home! Here’s what a World Cup win would mean for us as a country.

With the Royal Wedding well behind us and Pride season drawing to a close, the morale of our whole country seems to be resting on the fate of the England team in the World Cup. Or at least, that’s how it feels. The enthusiasm surrounding England’s wins has been infectious, to put it mildly, sparking camaraderie in the streets and even boosting patriotism.

According to a survey conducted by Vanquis Bank after Saturday’s win against Sweden, 90% of respondents feel more proud to be British than they did before the World Cup began, and more than half reported feeling “generally happier”. 40% say that they have spent more time socialising, and 48% have spent more time with their families.

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Of course, big sporting events can often create these kinds of spikes in patriotism, as communities gather in pubs and living rooms up and down the country, but this time around it feels different. It’s been over half a century since England won the World Cup, and for the first time in longer than we care to admit, there is an actual chance that this year, victory could be ours.

What also makes the revelry around this year’s games so gratifying is that it’s increasingly rare for the entire country to be coming together in a shared conversation and experience that is positive and inspiring, not a conflict driven by division or fear.

Yes, there are small contingents of so-called “fans” using England’s victories as excuses to behave abominably, starting fights and destroying property, and there are also those who believe “English” to mean “white.” But a love of sport transcends race and religion; I’ve seen plenty of British Muslims waving flags and cheering on England, and why shouldn’t they? Celebrating the victories of our country’s team is one thing; using the World Cup to justify a vile, nationalistic “us vs. them” narrative is another.

And what if football really does come home? What would it mean for England to win the World Cup for the first time since 1966? Birmingham is already playing host to the Commonwealth Games in 2022, an event which will place our city in the spotlight on a global stage, and can you imagine if England got the chance to host the World Cup too?

Remember how joyous the London Games in 2012 were, back when the word ‘Brexit’ didn’t even exist? According to Vanquis Bank’s research, 86% of Brits believe that a World Cup victory could actually unite the country. And there may be some truth to that statement. Hosting the next World Cup would be a fantastic opportunity for the UK to demonstrate to the rest of the world how diverse, inclusive and welcoming we can be as a nation. That kind of example is needed now more than ever, not just to other countries, but as a reminder to ourselves that we’re better and stronger when we play as a team than when we are divided.

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