It’s easy to be envious of the contestants on the ITV2 show Love Island. They have scored a free holiday in a gorgeous villa, their time is spent flirting, gossiping and sunbathing, and if successful they walk away with a boy/girlfriend, and a potential £50,000 jackpot. Not bad for eight weeks work.
But they are missing out. Back home, temperatures are hitting 30°C day after day, the Conservative party are in the thralls of a fratricidal conflict, and England reached a World Cup semi-final. It’s been a summer of great entertainment, and it could have been much more exciting.
26 million viewers tuned in to England’s fateful semi-final game against Croatia, whilst during the penalty shout-out versus Columbia viewing figures peaked at 23 million. And this doesn’t even account for the mass viewings that goes on in pubs, at big family gatherings in a cramped living room, and desperately unlucky fans who have to follow the game on their phones.
World Cup fever had well and truly gripped the nation, yet Southgate’s triumph became a Hobson’s choice for some, as when Love Island and England were on television at the same time, a difficult decision emerged. Did you choose to watch Harry Kane break the back of the net with another goal, or watch Megan break another heart?
As the stereotypes go, such a dilemma ought not to occur, as the viewership demographic for the World Cup and Love Island should be distinct, surely! Football has the associated beer-drinking culture, patriotism and raucous behaviour: a preserve of bawdy (and potentially harmful) masculinity? Equally a shallow and image-obsessed reality TV show which gamifies making and breaking relationships – is this inherently something geared towards women? It is evidentially not that simple.
For starters, these stereotypes don’t work. Football is England’s national sport, a rare chance for all of us to complain, be miserable and have our heart’s broken in disappointment at the same time and for the same reason. At the beginning of every tournament we think it is coming home, but it never is.
Does this heartache sound familiar? We all shed a tear for Laura when Wes brutally dumped her, and when another friend went behind her back to steal a kiss from her man. Losing in a penalty shout out can be just as gut-wrenching as having a potential romantic partner snatched away from you.
The same is true for the pantomime villains of both sport and love. We all revelled in our hatred of Adam, just as we have made despising the Germans a part of our national culture when it comes to football. This is why a collective sigh of relief was exhaled when both Adam and der Mannschaft were dumped out of their respective tournaments.
So it seems that Love Island and the World Cup aren’t so different. In relationships we are all a bit like Dani. We have been scarred by past experience, but hopeful that this one will be different, that this time we have triumphed. This is why she is so popular: she is relatable. And this is also why England’s run at the world cup gathered such attention: England fans, just like Danni, had always been powered by an overwhelming (and probably naive) sense that this is their time to win.
Just like the 1986 World Cup song (infinitely better than the Lightening Seeds’s ‘It’s Coming Home), love has got the ‘World in Motion’. We are obsessed with love, be it sporting or sexual, romantic or patriotic. This is why both the World Cup and Love Island are public sensations that will stay with us, even if Georgia won’t.