After the fires, the looting and the killings in its inner cities, England determines this weekend that the show must go on.
Premier League soccer, shown wherever there is television and heavily invested in by overseas billionaires, returns, with one exception.Tottenham Hotspur, its stadium still a crime scene on the high street where the riots began, is closed. The Spurs’ opening game of the new season, versus Everton, has been put off for a safer day.
Those who view sporting England through the keyhole of television might not appreciate the extent to which the stadiums are embedded in the hearts of towns and cities — often in deprived areas inhabited by a racial mix. Tottenham’s White Hart Lane ground is the embodiment of this.
In the EPL the football is played at a physical ferocity like no other. The urgency is communicated by the fans who identify with their teams in a tribal way.
It is no accident that the stadiums, mostly rebuilt after the deadly hooliganism of 30 years ago, remain in the city centers. Soccer there brings purpose to people’s lives. For better and for worse, it binds them.
This intensifies, rather than goes away, now that five teams are owned by Americans, two have Russian investors, one belongs to the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, another to an exiled Egyptian and two are heavily underwritten by Indian companies.
The players are hired from all cultures, and the league is a global phenomenon of branding, betting and far-off fan worship.
Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson set out to land their 13th Premier League title since the league began 20 years ago. The rest are just buying to catch up.