Yesterday, the English Football Association released the 23-man squad for the World Cup. As usual, Gareth Southgate’s call-ups prompted much debate. Why did Gary Cahill get called up after a dismal season over younger, more promising options such as Lewis Dunk, Jamaal Lascelles and James Tarkowski? Was it big club bias? Why did two of England’s best passers, Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Wilshere, fail to even make the standby list? And why did none of England’s evergreen, teenage wingers, like Jadon Sancho and Ryan Sessegnon, get excluded from the squad list? There will be plenty of more room for hindsight bias as time goes on, and plenty more time for fans to thumb their noses at Southgate’s decisions, but one decision that should be met with universal praise is the choice to let England’s youth announce the squad list.
The video features children from across the nation announcing different players on the World Cup squad. While the video has amassed over 20,000 retweets since being posted on England’s Twitter account, it was also met with plenty of outrage from those who would prefer the account had just released a list of the players. You just have to scroll through the comment section to find a sea of fans disgusted at the national team’s efforts to ‘appeal to the youth.’
First of all, England aren’t appealing to just the youth with the announcement video, they’re appealing to the entire country. There is nothing that stokes positivity and happiness in an entire nation than seeing kids…well, being kids. It doesn’t matter what country you’re in. It wouldn’t matter if Belgium, or Panama, or Tunisia released the same announcement with the same concept: no matter what, children will always help drive a nation’s morale up.
The video starts at Wembley, with a boy and a girl directing you to turn up the sound. You’re going to need it throughout the next minute and a half of joyful screaming. Raheem Sterling is first, as a group of teenage friends celebrate his inclusion. Then, there’s a boy screaming out of a car window, with two England flags waving on the top of the car, who shouts, “JOHN STONES! GO ON LAD!”
The theme continues, with a girl surfing through a muddy pitch, as if she’d just scored an absolute curler, and then shouting “Danny Rose!” Then comes the playful tribalism. A boy standing on top of a wall spray-painted “Jamie Vardy” announces the Leicester striker’s inclusion, and notes how the Premier League winner was “made in Sheffield.” Next, at a Bristol bus stop, one child announces hometown hero Jack Butland’s inclusion. A group of Lewisham boys proudly parade Ruben Loftus-Cheek, a Mancunian child announces Danny Welbeck, and who could forget “Walthamstow’s finest,” Harry Kane?
I am American, I have never so much stepped foot inside England since Tony Blair was Prime Minister, and I tend to cheer when a team like Uruguay or Iceland send England packing from an international tournament. But I cannot deny that a video like that fills your heart with national pride and joy.
The creators of the video should also be applauded for going out of their way to feature England’s diverse demographics. Not only does the video feature boys and girls of different ethnicities, of different backgrounds and of different parts of the country, but it also features children with disabilities. A boy with Down’s Syndrome announces Jesse Lingard’s inclusion while playing FIFA, and then does one of Lingard’s many different goal celebrations. A deaf boy signifies in sign language that “Ashley Young’s on the plane.” The England social media team deserve credit for linking together a group of diverse children, bonded by nothing more than a passport and a shared love for football, and making them the stars of the World Cup squad announcement video.
It’s ingenious video ideas like this that not only give hope to the next generation, but to the future of marketing as well. While every other nation will simply release a 23-man list on the day of their respective announcements, England ought to be praised for going outside the box and proving just how crazy English kids are for football.
The squad announcement didn’t necessarily need a video, but England still went for it, and they pulled it off. I fail to see how anyone could possibly have a problem with this, but I would be a fool to ignore the cardinal rule of Twitter: as long as you tweet it, someone is bound to get mad at it for no apparent reason.
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