the beautiful game
A deep dive into i-D's soccer photography archives.
Issue 272. Photography Alasdair McLellan
It comes in waves, the heat and the nerves. Skin is sticky. Mates are planning military grade operations on how to get out of work early and into the pub's front row seats. Non-smokers have inexplicably taken up smoking. Emails are being ignored. Up and down the country, three words leak out of trembling lips. Football's coming home.
Well, if England win the next four more matches after playing Belgium tonight, and then safely prise the cup from Germany's hands, and then fly it first class back to the motherland, then yes, football will be home.
Granted, it sounds like a long shot. But that doesn't matter. What matters is the blind optimism, the unbridled enthusiasm, the sweeping joy unifying — if just for a moment — an incredibly divided country. It's a welcome sensation from what is, to be frank, an often quite pessimistic nation. Just look at the intro to the The Lightning Seeds's 1996 single "Three Lions," from which the ubiquitous slogan was lifted: "I think it's bad news for the English game," a commentator slurs. "We're not creative enough, and we're not positive enough."
Suddenly, a throbbing chord rings out, like your favorite Christmas song or the intro to a Richard Curtis rom-com. It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming — the voice of hope and faith chimes in — football's coming home — "we'll go on getting bad results," the naysayers doth protest — it's coming home, it's coming — crowds, roaring — it's coming — drums, crashing — football's coming home.
What follows is a 90s Britpop anthem defiant in the face of cynicism — "They just know, they're so sure, that England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away, but I know they can play." It's cheesy, corny and probably started as a joke (the lyrics were literally written by comedians). But mainly it's proud and that's the point. Football pulses through England's veins, through its landscape and — would you know it — through the pages of i-D magazine. So scroll through our footy photography, knock back a pint and start planning how to sneak out of work early. Because it's coming...
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.