Sunday’s England vs Italy Euro 2020 final match was one of the most memorable matches for many. Almost 31 million fans watched with bated breath to see if England could finally do it. Sadly, it was not meant to be. Football did not come home to England, but the disappointment for many didn’t end there. Only hours after the loss, black players were subject to some of the vilest and disgraceful racist abuse. But this isn’t the first time it’s happened. And it isn’t the only issue with the culture of English football.
The culture of English football has been something many are embarrassed about. This couldn’t be truer this year. The constant booing of the opposition during their national anthem, the fans invading the stadium, the despicable behavior of the drunken mobs. Due to the behaviour of fans, in and outside of Wembley, it’s a wonder if England will ever host a tournament again.
As soon as the last penalty was missed the domestic abuse statistics and helpline tweets started flooding in. Domestic violence increases by 38% if England loses, 26% if they win or draw. This is something everyone is aware of, but it is as if it is the norm. Things need to change!
These players were heroes when successful, abused when they lost. The three young black players, Marcus Rashford 23, Jadon Sancho 21, and Bukayo Saka 19, – all under 25 who took the penalties have been targeted with racial abuse, blamed solely for the loss. Regardless of the outcome. Regardless of their age. No person should be subjected to such despicable racial abuse, over a game of football or anything else.
This issue doesn’t just start with football. The crucial fact that these online comments are allowed to be made, that there are little or no consequences is where the problem lies. The idea that social media channels cannot police these types of comments is laughable. Surely this is one thing they can do. And if they can’t, why is that? And how can we change it?
One of the best England sides the team has seen, full of youth, experience, energy, and comradery – people were hopeful and almost excited for the prospect of a first Euros win for the men’s football team. Not only did the team play some great football, but they were also forward-thinking in demonstrating their beliefs and showing a change in the culture. Taking the knee in every single game before kick-off, wearing the pride captain band, being diverse in both culture and backgrounds – this was a new, fresh, exciting squad. And they deserve to be praised for that. Which they were; throughout this tournament, the news has been filled with excitement and celebration of this spectacular squad. This squad made history, broke so many records, and deserves recognition for that. The positives need to be remembered, but of course, the negatives quickly overshadow these, which is sadly usually the case.
In the next few days, things may pick up. People will go back to their lives of semi-normality with the prospect of restrictions being lifted. But that doesn’t change one thing. That our country should be disappointed with how we have represented ourselves during this tournament. Football isn’t everything. But it is interesting how the actions taken place over the last four weeks reflect where we are as a country. These young players deserved better treatment. Even with their almost ridiculous pay packet. That doesn’t take away the fact we are living in a society that doesn’t value everyone equally – In football and in life.
Things desperately need to change not only in the football culture but the country as a whole. We cannot allow these actions to go unnoticed. Or allow these awful things to happen without consequence. Things need to change, now more than ever.
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