As Kabir, one of the Sikh saints, said, “In the darkness, we need a lamp to find that which is imperceptible.”
Let me set the scene. The country has recently gone to the polls, and the debate on Britain’s relationship with Europe is as lively as ever. Confidence in the Pound is falling. Racism is, sadly, on the rise. The future is uncertain. And yet, against this backdrop, one of our national football teams has confounded all expectations and emerged as the most unlikely underdogs of the summer.
Now you could be forgiven for thinking that I’m talking about Wales reaching the semi-finals in the Euros just a few weeks ago. In fact, it’s the background to the greatest footballing moment we’ve seen on British soil. I’m referring, of course, to England winning the World Cup on this day exactly 50 years ago.
The event is seared onto our collective memory and is part of the English national consciousness, with good reason. In 1966, the country was still recovering from the devastation of the Second World War. The British economy remained in a delicate state and bomb sites were a common feature throughout major towns and cities. We needed something to lift our spirits, and the World Cup coming to our shores gave us the perfect opportunity.
It can often be difficult to look beyond the turbulent situations we find ourselves in, and the appalling events this week in France and elsewhere coupled with our own political upheaval have focused our minds on the challenging times we are faced with. However, it is precisely at times like these that we must look at the world with optimism rather than despondency.
Sikhs call this concept ‘chardi kala’. It’s the idea that we can be in a state of high spirits and maintain a positive attitude towards life, even when our current circumstances may be no cause for celebration. It’s not naivety, but a commitment to the positive.
Half a century ago, there was a real sense of excitement and hope for England. Excitement for getting to the final at Wembley, despite the odds. Hope that Bobby and the boys could do the unthinkable and win. The nation was not left disappointed, and the final has become the stuff of legends.
An integral part of the English psyche is that we always hope for the best and don’t give up easily. The football anthem ‘Three Lions’ by Baddiel and Skinner is the epitome of ‘chardi kala’, with its lyrics that ‘all those years of hurt have never stopped us dreaming’. Our dreams and our hopes are what makes us as a nation, and even though we are going through deeply troubling times, the image of Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet 50 years ago today should act to remind us that even in the darkest of times there can be the most exhilarating hope.
After all, as Kabir, one of the Sikh saints, said, “In the darkness, we need a lamp to find that which is imperceptible.”