Over the weekend here in London, there was victory for the England international team and an Italian defeat in a final.
Unfortunately for all of us who wanted England to win the rescheduled Euro 2020 football tournament, the Italian defeat came in a tennis final (Matteo Berrettini lost to Novak Djokovic in the men’s singles at Wimbledon) and the England victory was in cricket. The men’s team beat Pakistan on Saturday in a One Day International at Lords. The international football team lost to Italy in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley last night on penalties, as we will no doubt be reminded for years to come.
For those of us who also follow Gaelic games, the omens for teams playing in blue over the weekend were not good: Cavan and Tipperary both lost their provincial Gaelic football games on Saturday (to Tyrone and Kerry respectively). The Cavan football jersey is the only dark blue sports top that I might buy for myself sometime. My maternal grandmother came from the county, and there’s something about the shade of blue on the shirt that appeals to me. But that was Saturday, and on Sunday night the azzuri won their second European Championship, their first since 1968.
Like most people who follow sport I am prone to superstitions and repeating certain habits during games, and indeed whole tournaments. Throughout the last month’s worth of international football I was drinking English beer during England games (Fuller’s London Pride, my local brew) and Italian beer (Moretti) during Italian games. During the Italy v Belgium game I pointed this out to my son, and asked him if he thought that it would make a difference to the result if I went out and bought some Belgian beer. Would they win if I were drinking Leffe or Chimay Blue, both of which I have sampled over the years? He didn’t quite say, “Don’t be ridiculous, dad”, but like most sensible people he didn’t think that there was any correlation between what I was drinking and events in Europe’s premier international football competition. I stuck with my Moretti (3 x 330ml cans) and Italy won 2-1. Two 500ml bottles of London Pride was all I needed during England’s win over Germany in the Round of 16. Two bottles were also enough for the quarter-final defeat of Ukraine.
Before last Tuesday’s Spain v Italy semi-final we didn’t have any Spanish or Italian beer in the house and at M&S my choice came down to bottled Moretti or canned San Miguel. I stuck with Moretti. If they’d had bottled San Miguel and canned Moretti I would probably have gone for the Spanish brew. Italy won on penalties. England’s semi-final win over Denmark last Wednesday went to extra-time, and I required a third bottle of London Pride to get to the final whistle.
For last night’s game the house was once again free of Italian beer. There was only London Pride in the fridge. I was hoping to draft a piece along the lines of “It’s the beer wot won it” but my extra efforts (cracking open a fourth 500ml bottle for the penalty shoot-out) were not quite enough. And sadly it was one of London’s best young players (Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, from West London, just like my beer) whose decisive penalty was saved. We all did everything we could, but it wasn’t quite enough.