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Opinion

Well played, England, but it's not coming home

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Expert
8th July, 2021
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Kasper Schmeichel’s response to a journalist’s question about the prospect of a potential English triumph in the lead-up to their Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark was superb.

Asked how he felt about stopping football from ‘coming home’, Schmeichel nailed the exchange.

With typically understated Danish class, the shot-stopper responded with more intellect, cleverness and playfulness than the journalist could ever muster when he simply asked, “Has it ever been home?”.

Schmeichel laid it on thick in the form of a question when he asked, “Have you ever won it?”.

Rather naively, the journalist doubled down on what was a clumsy and cumbersome exchange by suggesting that the 1966 English World Cup triumph on home soil had been something of a rightful settling of the greatest football prize in the country where it belongs.

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Social media lit up in fits of laughter and support for the Danes, the team no doubt backed by just about every football supporter on the planet bar the Poms.

Schmeichel’s cheeky retort led to the bumbling reporter somehow attempting to correlate Euro and World Cup play in the one bundle, while the Dane smirked and smiled in full knowledge that he already had Denmark well and truly favourites in the hearts and minds of those watching.

Sadly for Denmark, England has now advanced – somewhat controversially – and now just Italy remains in their path towards history.

England has never won the European Football Championship or been close to doing so. In fact its history in the event is more likely to be mocked and jeered by impartial fans, those currently living the daily pain of listening to English media banging about this bizarre ‘coming home’ of a trophy that has spent a grand total of zero minutes in the headquarters of the FA.

The Three Lions has claimed third place in the championships on two occasions. Once in 1968 when it triumphed over the Soviet Union in Rome in the third-place play-off. Italy and Yugoslavia fought it out for the European title as the English looked on.

In 1996, with a star-studded line-up and the advantage of home-track comfort, England produced the same result, and the Germans defeated the Czech Republic at Wembley to claim the crown.

Harry Kane celebrates with Jordan Henderson.

(Photo by Chris Ricco – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

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Overall Spain and Germany have gathered three titles each, France has a pair and even Greece and Denmark popped up with unlikely wins in 2004 and 1992 respectively.

With a lone World Cup triumph of 1966 on home soil and nothing but misery to write home about when it comes to European Championship play since, one must wonder from where this ridiculous cliche of the ‘coming home’ of football has emerged.

Perhaps from an English press looking to create a story far more powerful and dramatic than the actual record of their football team deserves.

While some may rightfully claim the modern version of the beautiful game we all watch so passionately has roots in England, with the Football Association’s laying out of clear rules in 1863, the reality is that football has a past entrenched well before the British Empire attempted to lay claim to it.

Somewhere between 206BC and 220AD ‘cuju’ was played in China during the Han dynasty. Ancient Greek culture featured ‘episkyros’, another forerunner to what we now know as football, and the ancient Romans also enjoyed a leisure activity called ‘harpastum’, another pursuit with clear links to the beautiful game.

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Despite these historical certainties and thanks to its never-ending and consistent penchant for discovering things, sticking flags in the ground as signs of ownership and proclaiming their successes, England has found a way to declare itself as the home of football.

Thus, a successful Euro 2020 campaign would present a rather interesting outcome. It would be quite strange, actually – a nation clearly not the origin of a pastime and one not particularly successful at it claiming to be the place of its birth.

In reality victory at Wembley this Sunday would be nothing more than a brilliant and stunning triumph for a nation that has disappointed for over half a century and one that has won very little silverware on the world stage.

It would certainly not be the ‘coming home’ of football.

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