Original article from Kent Live
The last 16 months have been rubbish haven’t they.
We’ve had restrictions on when we can meet, where we can meet and who we can meet.
The best things about life have been taken away to protect our loved ones, our friends and our family.
While we still have a long way to go, COVID cases are once again rising. For a few hours on Tuesday (June 29), football fans in England were able to celebrate like they did in 2018.
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I was lucky enough to watch England beat Germany in the last 16 of the Euros at Dreamland and I can safely say that the hundreds inside the Margate theme park were able to enjoy life.
Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane sealed a landmark victory for England as they secured their place in the final eight with a comfortable victory over Germany.
Millions of people across the country will have watched Tuesday’s game, whether it be from work, from home, in a bar or on a big screen.
I joined hundreds of England fans at Dreamland and it was the best experience I have had over the last 18 months.
5pm kick-offs on a Tuesday present challenges in terms of getting away from work but pretty much every table at Dreamland was in use. It’s fair to say the beer was flowing too.
It was the first time I had been to Dreamland to see an event – whether that be a concert or a big screen showing – and I wasn’t sure how it would be.
However, upon arrival I soon realised that it was not only incredibly well organised but it was a brilliant atmosphere.
A rousing rendition of the national anthem was preceded by all the classics.
On arrival you’re assigned a table and you order, what must be said is fairly expensive food and drinks via a QR code – with one of the staff bringing the order to the table.
Whether you’re down in the main seating area or along the top you manage to get a good view of the big screen which is situated on the stage which has seen some of the biggest musicians in the world perform on.
A rhetoric always follows football fans around that it’s all hooligans and thugs and everyone is there to start a fight and smash the place up.
I saw England fans of different ages, different races and different genders all supporting the same cause and being well behaved, on the whole.
It’s an outside venue and tables are set out apart which means that everyone has their own ‘bubble’ – important in these COVID times.
Security is also on hand to make sure anyone with any issues is dealt with – the couple of disputes I saw were soon sorted.
Up to the point England scored, everything was pretty calm, there were the classic oohs and aahs as chances for both teams went begging.
However, when Raheem Sterling bundled home Luke Shaw’s cross in the 75th minute, bedlam ensued.
Pints of beer thrown into the sky, embraces between fans and a lot of hugging!
Did it completely comply fully with COVID rules? Probably not, but given the images we’ve seen out of the G7, can we really hold it against the fans?
When the second goal went in, things turned up a notch further – tables were flying and fans temporarily ran on the stage.
Were they in the wrong, probably yes. But were they doing any harm? No, not in my book.
Indeed, security soon removed them off the stage.
We’ve all had such a difficult year – we’ve missed that emotion of being able to properly enjoy life with the people closest to us.
Football fans have been unable to attend matches in person since March 2020 and unless you were among the lucky 40,000 in Wembley, today was as good as it was going to get.
Outside on the main promenade, there was more serenading, cars beeping their horns and a real national spirit.
More jubilant scenes greeted the full time whistles with chants of ‘It’s coming home’ and I have to say I’m starting to agree.
But for me, football is so much more than that – so much divides us as a country at the moment.
We all have our own opinions on COVID, Brexit and politics but when the England football team beat the Germans it’s cause for celebration.
Today brought us together and for a brief few hours we were able to forget about COVID-19, the hardship we have all faced and the sacrifices we have made.
We've all been through so much but tonight showed us just why it's so important to get back to some form of normality.
Now that’s worth celebrating.