The Joy of Sport!

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of my thoughts! I hope everyone is still enjoying the stunning summer we’re having – in my opinion for most of the year we normally have to suffer with cold and wet weather so as far as I’m concerned this heat can stay around as long as it likes, as long as I have somewhere I can go to cool down if I need to then I’m happy!

It continues to be busy at Future Balance, and there’s a couple of pieces of news to talk about before I get into the main blog. Firstly we’ve welcomed a new person onto the team – Amy Gale is now onboard as our Financial Education Officer. She will be helping Future Balance start getting financial education into schools more regularly to get the messages across on how to manage their money in the future. So a massive welcome to Amy.

Secondly a reminder that we’ll be attending Total Swindon’s Summer Business Session at the National Self Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon on Wednesday 25th July. Tickets to come to the event are free and can be booked at the following link:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/summer-business-sessions-tickets-47016464511

I’m going to go in a slightly different direction today and rather than talk about something finance related, I’ve decided I just want to get some of my own thoughts about a topic down on paper. More specifically my hobbies, and even more specifically, sport!

I know the mention of sport will turn some of you off from this week’s blog and I completely understand that – my partner isn’t the biggest sports fan, but she does tolerate some sport to a degree. She did draw the line though when I was watching The Open golf over the weekend as she thinks it is one of the dullest sports going – she didn’t even come round to it when I explained how exciting it was as at one point on Sunday 6 players were tied for the lead!

As you may be able to tell, I’m a sports nut! If someone told me tiddlywinks was a sport, and Sky or BT were showing the tiddlywinks world championships, then I’d be glued to it! Although my favourites are football, cricket, tennis and rugby, I’ll happily sit and watch any sort of sport if it’s on. Of course being at the actual sporting event will always be my preference as in my opinion you can’t beat the atmosphere of any live event be that sport, music, comedy, theatre or anything else.

However the sport I want to focus on for this blog is football, or more specifically the World Cup. For my sins I support Swindon Town (as they are my local team), Tottenham Hotspur (passed on to me by my Dad) and England. I think it’s fair to say with those teams I could never be classified as a glory supporter! Recently though I’d lost a lot of interest in England – a far cry from when I was growing up.

I was a bit of a late starter when it came to football – as a 7-year old I had no interest in the 1990 World Cup when England got to the semi-finals before losing to West Germany on penalties. The first World Cup I was interested in was 1994 in the USA which England failed to qualify for! In spite of that I still enjoyed the spectacle and so 2 years later when England actually hosted the European Championships in 1996 I was hugely excited.

During part of the tournament my secondary school were hosting a German exchange programme and we had one of the students staying at our family home. We sat and watched together when England destroyed the Netherlands 4-1 in the final group game – I was ecstatic but my exchange student seemed pretty nonplussed. He commented the results were more important in the latter part of the tournament.

The exchange students had gone home by the time the quarter-finals came around (strangely, every one of them took home a copy of the Three Lions single…….) when England beat Spain on penalties after a reasonably poor 0-0. Because I’d missed the 1990 World Cup, I didn’t really understand the importance of England winning a penalty shootout so was a bit blasé about it!

In the semi-final though, I understood. After the 1-1 draw with Germany, once again England lost to them in the penalty shootout. I’m not ashamed to say that as a 13-year old boy I cried myself to sleep that night – the pain of losing having been so close to the final really hurt. Also little did I know it would be another 22 years until England were once again going to be in the semi-final of a tournament.

Over the next few years I was hugely into England, alongside Swindon. I went to a number of their qualifiers when I was a bit older, specifically when they were playing them away from Wembley while it was being rebuilt. I felt the pain whenever we went out of a tournament – my sister was none too impressed when I spent the day sulking after we lost to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup quarter-final as it happened to be her 16th birthday!

I suffered again, along with most of the nation, when we lost on penalties to Portugal in Euro 2004 and again in the World Cup of 2006. However from that point on, I started to lose interest in England. We weren’t fulfilling our potential (and then didn’t qualify for Euro 2008) – and we weren’t the most inspiring to watch. By the time we went out at the group stage of the 2014 World Cup, and then embarrassingly lost to Iceland in the round of 16 at Euro 2016, I couldn’t help but laugh at how inept we had become. And if I’m perfectly honest, I wasn’t bothered!

Then we come to this summer. I had no expectations before the tournament – chatting to a mate before it all began I said that I’d be happy if we got out of the group, and ecstatic if we somehow managed to win a knockout game. I hadn’t watched many of our qualifying games (and those I did weren’t particularly exciting), I had no interest in our friendlies and paid no attention to our warm up games.

When I watched that first game with Tunisia and thought it was going to be the usual story as despite a fast start we limped into injury time drawing 1-1. Then up popped Harry Kane to win it and the rest as we know is history. From that point on the tournament just seemed to get better and as each game went by, my interest grew – which I think is fair to say was replicated around the country. And as the interest grew, so did the belief.

Having said that, I always thought that the tournament winners would come from the other side of the draw even if we did make it to the final. As we all know it wasn’t to be – but what came out of it was that it fired up my belief in the national team again, as I think it did for a lot of people. And this is the main point I wanted to make from this.

Seeing the scenes of celebration up and down the country, how the whole nation seemed to all of a sudden have a smile on its face, and there was such a huge sense of pride in being English, something that for various reasons hasn’t been evident for a long time. Even my aforementioned girlfriend really got into it! There aren’t many things that can bring so many people together as well as bring them so much joy, but sport is definitely one of the few things that can. The last time I can remember anything similar was in 2003, and again it was inspired by sport when England won the rugby World Cup in Australia. It can be such a unifying force, and I only hope that England will continue to make the latter stages of tournaments from now on. Let’s hope it’s not another 22 years until the next semi-final…!

As always if you want to get in touch about any of your financial questions, issues or any suggestions for future blog posts then drop us a line either at info@futurebalance.co.uk, call us on 01793 731141 or visit the website at www.futurebalance.co.uk.

Until next time…

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