I am a Liverpool supporter and their legendary manager Bob Shankly once said: "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."
Shankly was speaking for comic effect, but for fans worldwide, football is both a distraction from, and a distillation of, modern life. Over the last month I've joined European diaspora and Australian football fans alike in late nights and early mornings as we followed our teams through the European Football Championship rounds. For me that has meant all UK home nations. Indeed, late nights and early mornings are just the norm for European football fans over the season whether Serie A, La Liga or the Premier League.
A month after Australia and the UK agreed an historic agreement in-principle towards a bespoke Free Trade Agreement, it's worth noting, too, our football exports go both ways, with the most recent A-League and W-League seasons seeing 37 players from England, Scotland and Wales play in Australia's elite men's and women's football leagues. Just last month, talented Australian manager Ange Postecoglou became the first Australian to be appointed manager of a major European team when he took the reins at Celtic in the Scottish Premier League. Matildas captain Sam Kerr plays for Chelsea.
As British High Commissioner to Australia I'd be remiss if I predicted anything but a comprehensive England victory tomorrow morning (5am Canberra time) against an excellent Italy team, but whatever the result, our team has already made us proud. After the victory against Germany, London's Migration Museum highlighted that save for three players, everyone in the team has at least one parent or grandparent born overseas.
Sport is not life, but it says a lot about who we are, and this team has shown the world being English is about spirit, love of country and the belief in what's possible regardless of background. Our semi-final win against Denmark further showcased British tenacity; Harry Kane's initial penalty miss saw him hit the rebound to deliver victory. You never give up.
As England and Italy prepare to face each other at Wembley for one of world football's most coveted prizes, I wish our Italian friends the best of British luck, safe in the knowledge this talented and tenacious England team has already shown they represent the best of modern Britain.
Come on England!
- Vicki Treadell is the British High Commissioner to Australia.