Party atmosphere in the pubs
by Joshua Neicho
What a mood while it lasted! Fans crammed around pub TV screens in the sweltering heat, streets eerily empty from 5 minutes before a match, unbridled joy on the Tube and from peeping cars in the streets afterwards.
While landmark venues like the Duke of Edinburgh in Brixton or the Windmill on Clapham Common were packed, the tournament was also manna for cosy locals. The King’s Arms on Kennington Lane went from a small band of 20 watching the Tunisia game to raucously crowded with folk of all ages and backgrounds for the Colombia clash.
“If only we committed ourselves, like every other team…” says Kevin, swaying, at the end of extra time, launching into a detailed analysis. “But we’re English, so we’re used to it”. Going into penalties, the atmosphere ratchets, with even the stylishly turned out City girls joining in the chanting. Lights swing and shirts are whipped off after Eric Dier scores the winner. Once punters get their breath back, it’s every cliche going: ‘hectic’, ‘squeaky bum time’. “It’s like the Great Escape, isn’t it!”, beams Martin.
“Calm your passion, calm your passion lads” jokes a weather-beaten Geordie at the Prince of Wales, Lyham Road in the latter stages of the Sweden game. His friends accuse him of being almost Scottish, before the group goes on to abuse Jordan Henderson.
Former postman Daniel was an eight-year-old at a children’s home when England won in 1966. He remembers being sent straight to bed at 6pm after the match. A Saturday regular at the pub for the racing, he marvels at the boost major tournament success brings.
“Think what happened in Leicester after they won [the Premier League] – everyone’s happy, productivity went up. Just think if we win, no more work ever!”
It was too good to be true. At the Trinity Arms in Brixton, the mood grows tetchy as England’s first half ebullience dries up and Croatia suddenly dominates possession. The clock ticking, every successful collection of the ball by Jordan Pickford gets a cheer. When Mario Mandzukic’s goal goes in the air goes out of the room.
“It’s football”, says Abdul the Senegalese chef after the final whistle: every time you expect something, it doesn’t turn out that way.
“My mum’s Irish – I’ll go back to being a Plastic Paddy now” says a man who had minutes earlier was been the room’s principle cheerleader.
Among a mainly-female crowd, there’s a lot of good sense about the result. Lawyers Samantha and Matilda feel that for once media expectations haven’t been over the top – there was no specially composed song, no thought England would get anywhere until they reached the quarter-finals. They lament the missed opportunities. “They’re quite emotional players” says Samantha. “As soon as they get knocked down, their mojo just went”. But, says Matilda, “they’ve done so well that you can’t fault them”.
Rebecca thinks it’s been an “overwhelmingly positive campaign” engaging people in debating issues from masculinity to Brexit through the medium of sport, and is confident that after a short period people would get over their disappointment. As an Aston Villa fan, she says, she’s a past master at football’s high and lows – “particularly lows”.55