• 14 Jul - 20 Jul, 2018
  • Shahed Sadullah
  • London Eye

Karl Marx had described religion as the opium of the people. But that was more than a century and a half ago and if the communist thinker and philosopher had lived in modern day Britain, he would have had to edit that conclusion quite drastically.

For the opium of the British people in the 21st century is not religion, which has long since lost its hold to the extent that it is no longer even a subject of serious debate. The opium of the British people today is football.

England’s victory over Colombia in the World Cup, setting up a quarter-final clash against Sweden, has given rise to an expression of euphoria which would perhaps only be beaten by another football event of even greater earth-shaking magnitude – England winning the World Cup. What made the victory against Colombia particularly joyous was the fact that it was won on penalties and England had a very poor record when it comes to World Cup matches being decided on penalties. In fact, this was the first time that England had managed to win a penalty shoot-out in the World Cup and that was seen as the breaking of a hoodoo. In future, penalty shoot-outs would have no fears for the English, so bring them on.

The media is showing constant updates on the health of the players, the weather of the venue where this historical quarter-final clash will take place and anything and everything connected with this historic event.

Indeed, the coach/manager of the England squad would today win a popularity contest against Prime Minister Theresa May without having to do so much as raise a finger. Of course, such euphoria can be short lived, lasting only till the next sporting debacle which for all that anyone knows, could be around the corner. But at the moment, the football trumps everything. The limit of football fever may be gauged by the fact that BBC news has been interviewing travel agents who claim to specialise in travel to Russia – of which variety of a surprising number of travel agents seem to have sprung up – who have been advising how to get to Samara, the venue of this piece of history in the making. Samara is apparently Russia’s sixth largest town, about 650 miles from Moscow – but about 2,500 miles from the UK. The Russian government has said that it will waive visa requirements for British fans travelling to Russia for the match as long as they have valid official tickets for the game. Someone said that it would be easier to find gold bars on the streets of London than to get tickets for the match and the Russian government probably knew this before making such a generous offer.

By the time this sees print, it may be all over – or it may go on to a new level, a level on which issues such as Brexit and the unity of the United Kingdom are just minor irritants spoiling the real show.

Talking of which, the prime minister is scheduled to be hosting a head-banging session at her country retreat to convince her Cabinet on a unified Brexit strategy by agreeing to a customs arrangement of some sort. Some 40 Tory parliamentarians bent upon a hard Brexit, (in other words a Brexit in which Britain kicks the rest of Europe wherever it hurts them most and walks away singing ‘For he’s a jolly bad fellow’) have threatened the Prime Minister with a coup unless she takes a tougher line against these unruly Europeans who are refusing to accept the glory of Britannia. The only hitch in that is that although such a kick may hurt Europe, it is going to hurt Britain much more, to the point of threatening the unity of the Kingdom. But that is a minor detail that does not really matter. What matters is that these annoying Europeans now thoroughly deserve some firm kicks up the back side, which our valiant penalty takers against Colombia have shown exactly how it is done; and who would undoubtedly give as good an account of themselves in the corridors of the European Parliament if called upon to do so. Of course, the common man or woman may come up with the question that if is just 40 or so out of over 300 Tory MPs who are behaving like three-year-olds, why can’t they be told to shut up and sent up to their rooms without dinner. But then he or she would not be that common, because this question has just not been raised anywhere, prompting one to wonder if one has missed something of fundamental importance.

As zero hour on Brexit approaches, the stark choice facing the nation is whether the Tory party will split or whether it will be the nation that splits. Either way, it will be a matter of little significance if England wins the World Cup.