It’s the summer of 2010 with record breaking tennis matches at Wimbledon, one day international cricket matches, Formula 1 car racing and a variety of golf matches. Oh, and then there’s World Cup Football. Here’s what the crowd watching the match at the Big Screen in Leicester thought of the England team’s performance against the USA.

England Vs USA (Saturday 12th June 2010)

This is the 19th time that the world cup has been staged – this time in South Africa which were selected as hosts in May 2004 over Morocco and Egypt following a bidding process open only to African nations. 32 qualifying teams (selected from 204 entrants) started to compete on the 11th June and the final game is expected to take place on the 11th July.

Many people who wouldn’t normally be interested in football make a special effort to be involved when the World Cup is on. For example, I have a 30 minute walk to work through a residential estate. On this walk two weeks prior to the World Cup starting, I counted 112 St George’s cross flags and one Union Jack displayed from on the roofs, flying from the windows and draped from house to house. I counted them again just after the World Cup had started and the number of flags on display had increased to 677 flags and two Union Jacks.

England Vs Algeria (Friday 18th June 2010)

The majority of people that I have talked to believe that flying a flag shows support for the England team playing on behalf of the whole country. Very few of these flag flyers choose to display the St George’s cross at any other time. There are also some who believe that flying a flag relates to a dangerous form of national pride that will inevitably result in hatred against anything that isn’t ‘English’.

This would suggest that there is a very narrow definition of what constitutes being English. Do you have to like fish & chips or black pudding? Do you have to love the Royal Family? Do you have to be white? Do you have to have a blood-line of English born heritage going back hundreds of years? Do you have to be xenophobic?

Displaying a flag during the world cup shows your support for the England football team, but it also gives a silent nod to your neighbour and community saying ‘Yes, we have something in common – we have a joint cause for celebration.’ This can happen regardless of your skin colour or whether you were actually born in England.

England Vs Slovenia (Wednesday 23rd June 2010)

This is one of the reasons why so many supporters crawl out of the woodwork when there is a World Cup competition happening. Rather than choosing to watch the matches at home or in a pub, I’ve been watching them at a 25 metre Big Screen in the middle of Leicester city centre. There are a whole variety of people watching the matches at the Big Screen. The audience at the first match consisted of mostly adults, but as the other matches have been played the audience has grown younger and younger. There have been more families and teenagers present.

The Big Screens have been installed in many cities across the UK for the intended purpose of being a platform for all, to provide local information and act as a platform for artists and film makers to display their work. Shamefully, many cities which have Big Screens have chosen not to air the World Cup matches for fear of violence.

As illustrated in the first film in this post, there were a few hundred people and around 15 Police officers at the screen for the first England match against the USA. This was the first time that such a crowd had gathered to watch anything on the Big Screen. Taking place at 7:30pm on a Saturday evening, the crowd were wonderfully behaved in the first half of the match but the majority of people disappeared at half time to what was presumably the pub. The atmosphere was a lot livelier in the second half. Despite reports in the local media that the event was marred by plenty of violence, there were only two occurrences. One of them was a fight between two people that just happened to be passing by and the second one was just one chap getting a bit too excited. The 15 Police Officers were either very good at their job, or as I witnessed, the crowd for the most part were very well behaved. A football got released into the crowd prompting a game of keepy-uppy. This got everyone very excited and kept being (accidentally) kicked and dropped onto people’s heads. As a result the Police confiscated the ball as soon as they could. England drew 1-1 against the USA.

England Vs Germany (27th June 2010)

The second England match was against Algeria on the following Friday at 7:30pm. The crowd was marginally larger than that at the first England-USA match. With the experience of the first match, a private team of events management staff had been hired to assist the Police Officers. Fences had also been introduced at either end of the street where the Big Screen was located with big signs telling spectators it was an alcohol free zone. Bag searches were mandatory upon entering the area, and there was even a green rug provided to encourage the spectators to sit down. A busking drumming band had strolled down from the nearby clock tower adding to the atmosphere of the occasion. Seemingly as an act of rebellion, as soon as the match started, several footballs were released into the air – giving the Police and staff something to get busy with straight away. This time the event passed without any significant incident. England managed a lack lustre draw of 0-0 against Algeria, adding doubt to whether they would manage to qualify past group stage.

The third and final group stage match took place against Slovenia on Wednesday 23rd June at 3:00pm. The same style of events management was employed, but with plenty more Police Officers in attendance. The crowd had exploded in size to several hundred if not a few thousand individuals to the point where it filled the entire street. There was a fantastic atmosphere, and so far it had been the best one. England even managed to win the match scoring a goal to none against Slovenia – qualifying for the round of 16!

World Cup Football at the Leicester Big Screen – Photo Collection

The fourth and final match against Germany was a difficult game, both for the players in the team and the audience. Germany scored in the first half – followed quickly by a goal from England. This transformed the crowd from a sullen, quiet collective to a band of screaming banshees. Then England scored another goal! It looked like there might be a chance of winning – but then the second goal was disallowed. People began to drift away once the score was 3-1, losing hope that England would be able to catch up. Germany went on to score another goal, beating England 4-1.

England were out of the World Cup.

Even though it’s over for England and people may either criticise the manager of the team or the team themselves, there are fond memories to be gained from the competition. Whether you watched the matches of your own team on a Big Screen with several hundred other people, or in a pub or in your own home – there will always be the memories of optimism and hope. There’s no need to stop smiling just because teams are being knocked out of the competition – always look on the bright side of life!