Since the turn of the century, when Bayern Munich became the first team to receive silverware from a worldwide event, there have been a number of signifiers of English football’s status as the centre of the universe. These include a long list of transfer fees, transfer records and record Premier League goals. This summer’s purchasing power, though, had much more to do with the sale of 168,000 lucrative replica shirts. Never before had the subject of a football kit been made so large a part of the world’s conversation — about everything from shop prices to Brexit to Donald Trump.
“Everything revolves around sport,” says Michael Armstrong, a 34-year-old self-described campaigner who lives just under three miles from British sporting venues. He wears three shirts to work, two of them Premier League and one of them from pro-Russian club Spartak Moscow.
Though he says there are few parallels to the battle over the Shetland Islands, Armstrong draws comparisons between the “crusade” against migrants’ health in Russia and the protests by British soccer supporters against globalisation and the greater political system. He lists the other sports where he has his eyes on striking political allegiances: windsurfing, ice hockey, world chess, world darts and world wrestling.
“That’s how sport has become the unifying force and how sports can make the headlines across the globe,” Armstrong says.