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15th Jul 2019

England’s World Cup glory is a testament to finding oneness in variety

Even in these dark days of division and hatred, there are shards of hope that remind you of what we could be if only we embraced our diverse brilliance.

Nooruddean Choudry

Bring me sunshine.

Back in the seventies, everything stopped for Morecambe and Wise. Their Christmas specials regularly attracted audiences of 20 million and more. In 1977, half the entire population famously tuned in to watch Penelope Keith and Elton John guest star with dear old Eric and Ernie. It was a time of limited distractions and only three television channels. Still, the sense that everyone in your street – everyone with a television basically – was guffawing together must have been something special.

It is easy to succumb to nostalgia, and yearn for simpler times. To wish we could go back to an era of greater homogeny. There is something hugely seductive about returning to a period in our history when the nation would act and feel the same, even for a glorious instant. And when someone promises to do just that – to reverse time and bring back a level of sameness – well, maybe certain things are worth sacrificing to make that happen. Even if your gut warns you it’s wrong.

On Sunday, it kind of did happen. England’s cricket team won the World Cup for the first time ever – and so many of us shared in that thrilling moment as one. It was history before our eyes, and the fact that watching of such dramatic scenes unfold was a communal undertaking meant everything. It elevated a sporting achievement into a national happening. Whoever at Sky made the inspired decision to allow Channel 4 shared coverage of the final deserves to be on that victory bus as much as jubilant Team England.

We weren’t just together in square-eyed form. Millions of us were reacting and interacting via a number of different online media. Twitter especially was spammed with instant updates of varying degrees of nervous breakdown. All the usual pithiness and too-cool-for-school posturing gave way to pure and immediate emotion. There were long streams of ‘YEEEESSSSSSS!’ and ‘FUUUUUUUUUCK!!!’ on our timelines rather than anything more cerebral. It was a very modern version of oneness unique to our age.

What was especially joyous was the sheer range of experiences of the same thing. There were wisening old cricket heads sharing the moment with Johnny-come-Lately’s – each as clueless as the other about what was coming next. You had fierce Barmy Army fanatics just as invested with frayed nerves as second and third generation immigrants who started the tournament failing the Tebbit Test and ended it screaming for their other team. And of course there was the Scots, and the Welsh and the Irish adding to the whole pantomime – either adopted Kiwis for the day or allowing themselves to succumb.

Such diversity was reflected on the field too. The fact that this remarkable group of England internationals were so, well, international, said something profound about what England (and Britain) can be when it looks outwards and welcomes people in. Any old ghoul hoping to co-opt the victory to promote their own brand of exclusivity, protectionism and mean-spirited nationalism was drowned out by the celebration of oneness in variety. Above all, this game showed us that we don’t need to be the same to feel the same.

And just a word about Eoin Morgan. When the Dublin-born England captain remarked with drole nonchalance that “we had Allah with us” as well as the rub of the green, quoting his Muslim teammate Adil Rashid, that was real fucking leadership right there. That was an EU-born skipper of his adopted nation snatching any reflected glory away from Little Englanders who will have been raging at such inclusive sentiment. In that moment, Morgan elevated himself to another level of hero for all who back his boys.

It is easy to succumb to nostalgia, and yearn for simpler times. To wish we could go back to an era of greater homogeny. But even in these dark days of divisive hatred and fascist populism, there are shards of hope that remind you of what we could be if only we embraced our diverse brilliance rather than shunning it. We can absolutely become greater than the sum of our parts by celebrating the oneness in our variety. And who needs nostalgia anyway when we’re making history right now.