Tensions run high but what now?
Last week’s Euro final held at Wembley Stadium between England and Italy, saw the home side go down 3-2 in the penalty shoot out with young black players, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missing from the spot and as a result being racially abused and physically threatened.
Many were revulsed and condemned it in strident tones.
England captain Harry Kane said: “They deserve support and backing, not the vile racist abuse they’ve had since last night. Three lads who were brilliant all summer had the courage to step up and take a pen when the stakes were high.
“If you abuse anyone on social media you’re not an England fan and we don’t want you.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took to social media, writing: “I am sickened by the racist abuse aimed at England players after last night’s match. It is totally unacceptable that players have to endure this abhorrent behaviour.
“It must stop now and all those involved should be accountable.”
‘NO ROOM FOR RACISM’
Football in the UK has embarked on a campaign called ‘No Room For Racism’. Players now take the knee before games in solidarity with those who want racism kicked out of the game.
That too has created debate and discussion, with some of the view that footballers should not be mandated to do so.
The abuse these three young men have taken is shocking and it can only be hoped doesn’t hinder the rest of their careers in the national squad.
What is clear, as pointed out by former England and Liverpool star John Barnes, is that this is not a football problem, it is a societal problem. It is endemic and deep rooted.
Born and raised in London, England, as a teenager I watched Cyril Regis, Viv Anderson, Garth Crooks and John Barnes, all great black players, take revolting racial abuse. Our parents and Caribbean people who migrated to England in the 50s and 60s would watch on and say they wished for a day when their children would not be subjected to the racial abuse they encountered – “ No dogs, no Irish, no blacks”.
The refrain was constant, “Read your books, get an education, you can’t make a long-term career in sport and, anyway, they don’t want you.”
For over 40 years, black players have been taking racial abuse and it has got worse with the ubiquitous social media platforms. No campaigns, public indignation, personalities calling it out, has stopped it. It’s like the air you breathe.
The old timers said years ago that you will have a difficult life as a black athlete despite “all the money in the ‘whorl’”. Dem don’t want you!”
That was hard to believe and even harder to take. We took pride in John Barnes and, a generation later, Raheem Sterling. Both stars always conducted themselves well and never put a foot wrong but still were hurled with opprobrium and hate.
It does have one wondering whether black footballers can now play with abandon and unbridled creativity for fear of making a mistake and then being subjected to racial attacks. Is it really worth it? Is it really worth being underappreciated? Is it now time, like Michail Antonio, to opt to play for the Caribbean or African country of your parents because, though you make less money, it is a lot less stressful?
My parents’ generation saw the abuse, I’ve see the abuse, my children’s generation will no doubt see it to. Will their children’s generation also see black players getting racial stick?
WILL BLACK PLAYERS REMAIN PROUD TO REPRESENT THE THREE LIONS?
You have to wonder after what we witnessed last week; will black players pull on the shirt with the Three Lions and feel proud to represent their country? Will they feel part of this green and pleasant land? Or will they feel marginalised, persecuted, made to feel ashamed of the colour of their skin?
This Tory Government has not made a concerted effort to condemn and stamp out this racist behaviour. With fans booing when footballers take a knee before the Euro games, the Government did not come out and show disapproval.
In fact, the British government has been both reticent and diffident about a full-throttled renunciation of the racism levelled at black players.
The UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel went so far as saying that taking the knee is simply ““gesture politics” and that fans can boo if they want to when footballers drop to a knee in solidarity.
Chelsea and England footballer Tyrone Mings rightfully called her out on it and exposed her two-faced hypocrisy.
Taking to Twitter, he wrote: “ You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against happens.”
John Barnes is spot on.
“You cannot get rid of racism in football as long as it exists in society because football is a part of society. Unfortunately, we are doing it the wrong way round,” he said.
It’s time we did it the right way round. It’s time to do away with the hate, racism and injustice.
John Barnes makes some good points on this subject in this audio clip. Listen and learn: