An article by Simon Kuper draws attention on how the English continued to attend football matches even as the British Expeditionary Force were evacuating Dunkirk. For many, the preoccupation was their team’s fortunes rather than the drone of Pathe newsreels of the war.
Even Sir Tom Finney recalling the war was more concerned about playing Arsenal in the 1941 War Cup : “I wasn’t all that interested in the war when I was playing. And to hold them to a draw in London was really quite an achievement.” Finney added that, of course, he wanted “England” to win the war.
I remember seeing John Boorman’s wonderful Hope and Glory, of a small boy growing up in the London blitzes. The film transforms those terrible events into something magical, into a liberating experience, even as bombs wrought terror, death, and destruction. Football might have provided a similar sort of conduit. Attendances actually went up when Britain was ravaged by record numbers of unemployed workers in Thatcher’s time.