Paul McNamee: It’s no crying shame to shed tears

Tears may well be indicative of a generation who feel things a little more. This is fine, because they’re doing something about it

It started with a few drops. And then it turned into a valley of tears. This World Cup has been notable because of the remarkable Ronaldo and the volume, the huge, undammable volume, of players crying.

They cry a lot. After the first round of matches, after matches that end in a draw. They may well be crying off camera too. Maybe right now.

My initial response was one of slight confusion. Why are all these lads crying? There has been no disaster. Many of the results are fixable. Are these the millennial snowflakes on a global stage?

I looked to the pundits. They were more of my generation. In the studio, Roy Keane, the former Manchester United midfield general, a player who in his quietest moment could be described as combative, was talking about the Iran manager Carlos Queiroz. Roy is not a man who was ever known for crying. He and Queiroz had a falling-out around 14 years ago. Keane’s great regret, he said, was “I should have ripped his head off.” He has carried that for 14 years. That, while an entertaining quip, cannot, I thought, be healthy.

I thought about the ongoing battle to have young men not bottle things up, to talk about worries, to be open. And it became increasingly clear that professional footballers crying on the pitch was a good thing, a positive move. Why shouldn’t they show it, why should they bottle it up? Why become a ball of lingering rage like Roy Keane, allowing things to gnaw at you for over a decade.

And this goes further. The tears may well be indicative of a generation who feel things a little more. This is fine, because they’re doing something about it.

We are seeing a generation of activists, of people who have looked around at the old order and said enough is enough, we will be the agents of change. The rise in crowdfunded grassroots campaigns, the fleet-footed move to effect a positive difference, a desire to make things better, THIS is the product of the snowflake generation. The phrase should no longer be a slight, a pejorative shot in the intergenerational wars.


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Pick any campaign or hot-button issue and you’ll find a bunch of snowflakes with smart ideas and fearlessness.

And who is to say their way isn’t better? Last week it was reported that Theresa May, in desperate need of ideas on how to fund her £20bn NHS cash injection, summoned her senior MPs to have them pitch their thoughts. It was the high-politics version of Alan Partridge’s monkey tennis. It is an incredible way to conduct affairs.

Besides all else, we all cry. Last week, as Donald Trump banged up kids with sneering impunity, the video of Sir Nicholas Winton being surprised on That’s Life in 1988 starting swirling around social media again.

Winton was surrounded by many of the surviving Kindertransport children he had rescued in 1938 as the Nazis descended on Prague. He saved 669 Jewish youngsters who would otherwise have been murdered in the death camps. He got them to safety, they built new lives – like the remarkable Dame Stephanie Shirley, who we feature in our Letter to My Younger Self this week. Winton never told anybody about this and his incredible actions only came to light by chance. Seeing him surrounded by those people has me bawling, every single time. This week I wondered what would Trump do if those kids showed up at his door today. I worried about the dark direction some major powers are moving in.

And then I realised that this is not the start of something, it’s the end. The next generation coming, the teary millennials, are not going to stand for this. They will not allow it.

None of us should stand by.

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