After England’s football defeat, a poet reflects on what we can learn from losing

As England mourns Sunday’s Euro 2020 result, International Booker winner Marieke Lucas Rijneveld has written Substitution applause, about the upside of going down

At primary school Marieke Lucas Rijneveld was allowed to stay in the gym playing football with the boys, when the girls were sent off to shower after PE. “I was good at it. I can still hear the schoolmaster shouting: ‘Rijneveld is on the ball, Rijneveld is scoring!’” says the author, whose parents disapproved of their daughter playing such a boyish sport.

It wasn’t until, as a rising star of the Dutch literary scene, they were asked to write some poems for a football magazine, that it all came flooding back. The poems never happened “because I thought: how do you write a good poem about football without it getting ugly?” says Rijneveld, who identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns they/them. “But then I delved into football terms and found out that those terms actually refer to life. I wanted to write down my own football memories, and soon it became more about life than football itself.”

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