Providing a backdrop to the tumultuous run-up and result of the EU Referendum, the English football team have been participating in the Euro 2016 Championship in France. Up until last night of course, when, for the second time in the space of a week, the country suffered yet another ignominious exit, in this instance falling to the collective spirit and unity of Iceland.
But what is it like to watch the Euros 2016 from detention? What is it like to support your team – England – from the confines of a cell whilst that country’s same government is trying to deport you? Whilst that same government holds you indefinitely, day after day, in prison-like conditions. This morning, we spoke to ‘B’, currently detained in Colnbrook, 8 months and counting:
I been in the UK since I was 14. I always loved football. I would play a bit. I was more Keane than Pirlo, but I was ok. I was living in West London so I support the Chelsea.
When there was something like the Euros I would watch it in my local, on the big screen. I would go with friends. Or with my family, or colleagues from work. Our ritual was that we always go for a meal first before the match. You can put more beers in when the belly is full. And I love to watch England with a nice Carling.
From the beginning, I’ve been supporting England. From Gascoigne to Ian Wright to Beckham. I remember Euro ’96 with all the old boys; Seaman, Adams, Pearce. And then Hoddle came in. I remember crying when there was young Michael Owen against Argentina. I always like to see the Chelsea boys play – Lampard, Terry. They could use Terry now. You can’t let in goals in the 92nd minute at this level. But you learn to be disappointed if you an England fan. It is part of the thing.
I would wear my England shirt when they were on. It was nice at the pub – everyone became one. You would talk to people you don’t know. About this player, or that miss, whatever. Even after the match, you be talking for half an hour about what went wrong, making friends. You felt part of something big. I felt like an accepted British citizen. I was. I am.
I’ve been in detention for eight months. People are talking about the Euros in here but for distraction only. Your mood is so up and down in detention. One minute you are thinking about the past, things that happened to you, pain. Another minute, you try to watch the match…Try to release yourself from the dream.
Sometimes I watch the Euros alone. Sometimes with my cell-mate. I don’t know where he is from or who he supports. He is new and quiet.
Most of the time I can’t watch any of it. The stress is too much to concentrate. Watching the game can be a nice but then the final whistle goes…You still here. Waiting. Extra time. Another day.
I’m suffering here. I don’t even know how I am surviving. It’s mad in here. Crazy shit. I’m alone. No-one visiting. I got headaches all the time.
Everyone makes mistakes, y’know. I deserve a second chance. A lot of people in here deserve a second chance. This is hell up in here. Hell.
Even though the British is doing this to me, I still get excited to watch the England. I watched the game last night against Iceland and I was screaming my head off. Even though we lost, I was still singing ‘Football Is Coming Home’. I was hoping all the way to the last minute.
I am English, what can I do? I can’t help myself. I want to watch the boys. I’ve been here 21 years.
I don’t know any other team to support.