FIFA World Cup 2018: Bristol puts life on hold for Harry Kane’s England
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FIFA World Cup 2018: Bristol puts life on hold for Harry Kane’s England

With Harry Kane’s England delighting supporters with their fine run to the FIFA World Cup 2018 semi-finals in Russia, passion is running high back home.

football Updated: Jul 08, 2018 21:46 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times, Bristol
FIFA World Cup 2018,Russia 2018,Harry Kane
England’s FIFA World Cup show seems to have brought the country together. (AFP)

There was one hour to go before England and Sweden kicked off in Russia, when this correspondent landed in Bristol. But you could feel it everywhere. (FIFA World Cup 2018 FULL COVERAGE)

Football talk is on in your taxi radio, the RJ building up the atmosphere. The cabbie, of African descent, informs you that this is his last pickup for the afternoon. After that, he is heading home to watch ‘the game’.

Football is the biggest thing in this part of the world but during this World Cup, the atmosphere has been something else. And with England delighting supporters with their fine run to the semi-finals in Russia, passion is running higher than ever.

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England’s relations with Russia had hit a new low after the poisoning of double-agent Sergei Skripal but the performance of Gareth Southgate’s team seems to have made the country hosting the World Cup one of their favourite places.

Nothing gives England fans a bigger high than success in football. And, a few hours in Bristol on Saturday afternoon provided enough proof of it.

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World Cup games have brought England to a standstill. The people from neighbouring countries which form Great Britain won’t admit it openly but are nevertheless following England’s games. There were many Welshmen in Cardiff grudgingly saying they would be watching Saturday’s quarter-final. It’s only natural that such close ties and past history leads to an interest.

Like the effect cricket has in India, football seems to have brought the country together. A BBC news bulletin said most of England had put its life on hold for the quarter-final with streets and highways looking deserted.

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At about the time the match was about to start, this correspondent walked into a small Indian restaurant. With no television, the owner had fixed live streaming on his laptop. There was a young man from Faisalabad, Jamil, sitting next to him glued to the screen. The owner was a Cantonese from Hong Kong who happily cheered, enthusiastically announcing his support for England.

What is striking is how people from different ethnic backgrounds are backing Harry Kane’s team. At Bristol’s waterfront one could see families of Asian and African origin packing the pubs, huddled around television screens, all cheering wildly along with Caucasians as England took the game to Sweden.

They were living the game; their voices rising as an attack was being built, getting louder at the goalmouth before dying with the end of the move.

The goals from Harry Maguire and Delle Ali were greeted with rapturous applause with people jumping and punching the air and singing.

Hours after the game, and as the spirits soared, there were groups singing, “It is coming home… football is coming home…” on the buses, outside pubs and in street corners.

This World Cup has gripped England. It is sure great for the country’s spirit.

First Published: Jul 08, 2018 20:31 IST