It is a very interesting time to be in the UK right now.
For many of us who voted "Remain," there has been little to be proud of about the UK since the Brexit vote.
Anti-foreigner, racist, and Islamaphobic sentiment has dramatically increased; the country is divided on so many fundamental issues, and without any clarity on what the future looks like, much of society is at a standstill.
It has often felt like so much of what we all fought for since the end of WW2 to make the UK an inclusive, caring, meritocratic, liberal, and fair country has been swept away.
Fuellng this situation is our government and elected politicians, who have become the biggest bunch of narcissist charlatans in living memory, their antics not dissimilar to those in "basket-case" nations we would once sneer at.
Only in the last days, minister's are resigning and conspiring on how engineer a coup against the prime minister, which will have zero public benefit.
The national football team was a close metaphor of the state of the nation; losing to Iceland days after Brexit vote indicative on where our future lay.
But totally against this cultural narrative, gaining his job as national manager in accidental circumstances, without any major public support, Gareth Southgate was quietly working very hard and making significant progress.
He created his team from the scraps of the foreign player-dominated English Premier League: identified a system to play within; instilled a strong team ethic and pride for the shirt, asked his team to work hard and in doing so, has taken them to the World Cup semi-finals.
Whilst its true that England have been fortunate with seedings and route to the semi-final, that is luck that Southgate has had to earn: its not his fault that Spain or Germany didn’t perform. His team has had to overcome a wide range of challenges and done so with flying colours.
What has endeared Southgate most to me is the manner in which he has performed his job: friendly, modest, honest and caring; rebuilding links with the national team fans, media, and sponsors. His team is reflective of the UK's multi-ethic demography and without egos. They don’t dive or cheat, and despite being millennial snowflake types, are hard working and very likable. A team much like Southgate himself, as it happens: a very nice man whom we’d all like as our friend.
The team has already over-achieved so there is no pressure, nothing to lose and simply everything to gain. Its not that often in life that we find ourselves in that position, and maybe it is that freedom which will provide the self-belief to become world champions?
The greatest part of this story is that everybody wants Southgate to do well, because if he does well, we'll all feel happier as we'll feel like we are somehow moving forwards. Football really has the power to make you feel differently about the world .
It is for that reason alone that I can overcome the negative feelings I have about being British right now and fully support England 🏴in its semi-final versus Croatia -- and hopefully beyond!