For a couple of glorious World Cup weeks, the England football team lit up the planet.
Young and diverse, talented and optimistic, they represented a shining future. Team players all, they provided a way forward for a national side too often tainted with yobs, nerves, and poor tactics predicated on superegos. Manager Gareth Southgate didn't just drive up sales of waistcoats (a.k.a. vests, if you're one of his many American fans) or atone for a decades-old penalty kick; he gave his nation a much-needed model of kindness, listening, loyalty, and masculinity.
I think a photo has just changed my mind on marriage. pic.twitter.com/d4HoCRuRIJ
— Susanna Reid (@susannareid100) July 12, 2018
So it came as a brutal awakening when England lost its semi-final clash with a ruthless, determined underdog, Croatia on Wednesday. Many fans had already lifted their sights to what seemed a pre-ordained World Cup final showdown with old enemy France.
A country still divided by Brexit desperately wanted to stay focused on its heroes battling external foes, to keep rekindling the spirit of its now-mythic World Cup victory in 1966.
But take heart, England fans. Having examined all possible alternate outcomes of the Croatia battle, like Doctor Strange in >Avengers: Infinity War, I'm here to tell you that there are very few versions in which England progressing to the World Cup final does not lead to further disaster for the country.
In fact, losing to a scrappy team from a heroic war-torn country in extra time was pretty much the best outcome we could have hoped for, politically speaking.
Political careers can and have turned on England's World Cup fortunes.
First, you have to understand that British political careers can and have turned on England's World Cup fortunes. Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who won a healthy majority in 1966 and became associated with that team, likely lost the 1970 election because his world champions had exited the following tournament four days earlier.
Right now, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson's political fortunes are on a knife edge. He resigned Monday in protest at Prime Minister Theresa May's "soft Brexit" proposal, which will probably preserve most of Britain's beneficial economic relationship with the European Union. He made sure a staged picture of him signing the resignation letter appeared in Tuesday's UK newspapers.
If this were America you'd say "he's running," and indeed Boris or BoJo (as he is alternately known) may yet challenge Theresa May for the leadership of the Conservative party. If he ran and won, that would ineluctably lead to a no-deal "hard Brexit" with Britain crashing out of the EU in 2019 — an economic disaster so great that the government is planning to stockpile food and medical supplies just in case it happens.
Boris is often called the British Trump; like the president he's a clown, a blusterer, a cynical patriot and a keen opportunist. England's World Cup victory, which seemed within grasp the day he resigned, would have made for an unprecedented opportunity to sell the UK on the dangerous notion that it can go it alone on a world stage without risking calamity.
Here's a Boris speech from one of those alternate timelines where England brings the trophy home: "Now that our team are world champions, isn't it high time Britain becomes the world champion of trade? Let us abandon the lower leagues of the Euro Zone and seek victory in the knock-out stages of the global economy!"
With that as his rallying cry — plus a cynical co-opting of the "Southgate spirit" — Boris pursues a bonkers summer-long, flag-waving, Churchillian campaign for "party leadership and Brexit leadership." Even going through to the World Cup final and losing to France doesn't preclude this outcome, as Boris is also adept at using grievance against the country's oldest enemy to his advantage.
Here's what he has to say in that scenario: "The French may have cheated and defeated us on the pitch, so let's not hand them a victory on the world stage as well. Fight on! Never surrender!"
These Alternate Borises are playing to the xenophobic grassroots Conservative party membership, rather than the Members of Parliament that vote on the leadership matter. But as we've seen in the U.S., the tail is wagging the dog on the right wing these days. Terrified of their MAGA base, GOP reps allow themselves to be swept up by Trump's senseless fervor.
What Conservative MP would dare vote against someone who is basking in the fervor of a historic victory, in a nation where beer-swilling supporters have changed their favorite chant to "two World Wars and two World Cups"?
The winning future, and the Kraken of nationalism it awakes, looks ironically grim. A clown of a leader, Boris would have to follow the transatlantic lead of his fellow clown and every other risible authoritarian — they stop laughing when they fear you. Once a respected London mayor, Boris threw away much of his reputation when he teamed up with UKIP leader Nigel Farage to sway the Brexit referendum with a lie-filled campaign. Alternate Boris has no qualms about throwing in his lot with Trump, either.
Even worse, just picture this possible future: Vladimir Putin flatters new PM Johnson over his country's victory on Russian soil; a summit is planned; a Trump-Putin-Boris "coalition of independent nations" results, with economic and military ramifications, and NATO looks even more doomed than it does now.
Is a hard Brexit and a Johnson premiership still possible, back in our reality? Certainly — but England's World Cup loss in the semi-finals just made the ground a hell of a lot less fertile for this nightmare seed.
If it helps the catharsis, fellow England fans, try imagining a Back to the Future scenario where the world champion England team of 2019 somehow figured how to travel back in time to prevent the hard Brexit outcome. To stop the food riots and the rising racism to come, they need only replace their younger selves in the locker room at half time in the semi final. That would certainly explain why they suddenly seemed older, more scattered, their peak fitness gone, and why Kieran Trippier had such a supremely distracting injury.
Changing the course of history to make themselves lose at the last minute and save the world: Now that's the Southgate spirit.
On the upside, Gareth Southgate is now free to be Prime Minister #ENGCRO
— Jeremy Vine (@theJeremyVine) July 11, 2018
And after all, there's always 2022 — when the Brexit issue will have been resolved one way or the other, and BoJo will be less of a lingering threat.
There do yet exist futures where football comes home after all.
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Source : https://mashable.com/2018/07/12/england-world-cup-boris-johnson-brexit/