By the time you read this, I have no idea what the situation with England at Euro 2020 is but, as I write, we have gone through the group stage as winners, and everybody is pretending that there aren’t four or five teams that look much better than us.
I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to England v Scotland, a match so much worse than every other game in the tournament that I convinced myself it must be my fault and I should never go again. I spent the day before the match in London, and became slightly nervous about attending, as the thousands of Scottish fans who had descended on the city appeared to have hit a peak of drunkenness somewhere near 11am. This didn’t bode well for an 8pm kick-off.
I needn’t have worried. Although the Scottish fans were loud, every time I talked to any of them, or was recognised from TV, they were the epitome of terrifying friendliness. They would shout things such as, “Nice to meet you – I hope you get pumped!” which I’m assuming was in reference to the game. So I would love to take this opportunity to say congratulations to the Scottish fans for being brilliant – at least those I saw.
My only negative interaction of the evening was, in fact, with an England fan. I have had a chequered relationship with supporting England in the past, thanks to being on the receiving end of racist comments in a pub while a game’s on, or seeing racists supporting the same team as me. A group of friends of mine were once chased down the road because they “looked Tunisian”. My experience this time wasn’t racism, however, just old-fashioned twattishness.
Just before the game I was introduced to the group of people I was going to be watching it with, most of whom I had not met before. As we were chatting, a group of lads in their 20s walked past. One of them stopped next to me, pointed in my face and screamed, “Romesh!” He called his friends back. So far, so perfectly fine.
The bloke then did a thing that many people do when they meet a comedian, and that is try to engage in some sort of banter-off. He started telling me that he didn’t know why he’d stopped, because I am “pure shite”, and that he didn’t want a photo with me because I’m not funny, which ignored the fact I had asked him to do neither of those things. His friend then asked for a photo. As I posed for the picture, my new friend kept sticking his middle finger up in my face, because he didn’t want the picture to be taken.
I decided that walking away was the best option, but not before the man started telling me that my glasses were too big for my head. As I began to step away, he told me he would let me be in a photo with him. I declined the invitation, and left, as he shouted abuse at me all the way down the road. The group of people I was with looked horrified and I found myself apologising for the man’s behaviour, as if I had arranged his appearance as part of the evening’s entertainment.
Then we went into the stadium where the match ended up being such a sedate affair that I actually felt nostalgic for the excitement of being shouted at in the street.
Still, I came away from Wembley feeling hugely positive. If you can go to a football match between England and Scotland, on a Friday night at the (hopefully?) tail end of a pandemic, and only encounter one solitary dickhead, then – I’m going to be honest with you – I think that’s progress. When I go again in years to come, I will dare to imagine an evening where I don’t meet any dickheads – but maybe that’s an impossible dream.