Summer has arrived in full bloom seemingly out of nowhere, after months of dreary rain, as if to coincide with the imminent end of lockdown and the start of Euro 2020.
Residents of the Kirby Estate in Bermondsey have decked out their homes in England flags in a show of support for manager Gareth Southgate’s men ahead of their first game against Croatia on Sunday, just as they did for the World Cup in 2018 and in tournaments going back to Euro 2012.
But this is more than a gesture of patriotism and football fandom. As one of the organisers told us this week, this year the flags take on a special meaning, after the isolation of the last fifteen months.
As in many estates, the blocks face inwards, meaning residents look out of their windows to see a sea of flags. They see a display of unity, and community, after the last year of disruption, anxiety and tragedy, often faced alone. Sadly, two people on the estate died in the past year, but residents have made sure they are not forgotten. Two special flags have been made to commemorate their passing.
Of course, in a vastly diverse city like London not everyone on the estate is English. Anyone who comes through will see prominently displayed Portuguese and Scottish flags, among others, and bunting with the flags of all 24 countries taking part.
Aside from the excitement that more hardcore football fans will take from the tournament, this is the value of a competition like Euro 2020 – value that will be even more keenly felt after lockdown. The tournament allows and encourages people to show their patriotism and feel a sense of community by coming together to enjoy some of the freedoms we are used to – something that we have all sorely missed over the past year.
Come on England!