Rashford. He was good enough and adored by all when England was winning. Photo: Кирилл Венедиктов Wikimedia Commons
[Dee On The Couch]
So, the Euro2020 cup did not come home to England after all.
And the blame has been squarely placed, not only at the feet of star soccer players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka but the entire Black British population. It did not take long for the masks to come off, did it? These young players of ages 23, 21, and 19, respectively, were racially abused and threatened after their missed penalties resulted in England’s loss in the Euros to Italy. These are the same section of the British population who jeered and booed them when they took the knee in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and then cheered them on when they scored. A very warped sense of mentality indeed.
These young men were part of a team that played magnificently en route to the finals. It took England 55 years, since the 1966 World Cup to reach the finals of a major tournament. Sterling, another Black players, and Saka scored or assisted in some of the goals that powered England to the final against Italy. Does anyone think it’s a coincidence that the team has become more successful while becoming more diverse?
Rashford, one of the stars, is a serious young man who raised about $28 million—including his own contributions—for organizations that fight food poverty in Britain.
Everything was forgotten in an instant as these players of African ancestry were brutally trolled on line and called “niggers” and “monkeys.” They were British when they were winning but as soon as they lost to Italy they were told to “go home.” My heart goes out to these young men, accompanied by the warmest hug a mother can give. They were always winners. I want to tell them: “Hold your heads up high. I am proud of you. You all matter; enduring daily pressure from unwarranted harassment and still stepping on to the pitch to represent your country”.
There are those who have questioned why young and inexperienced players were chosen to take the penalties in such a crucial game. Yet England team manager Gareth Southgate has steered this team where others failed. He made a decision that he thought was right and all the three had success rates of over 80% in taking penalties. I gained even more respect for Southgate when I saw him embrace and console a devastated Saka.
As gutted as I am at losing to Italy, a team that played like thugs—let’s face it, they did play like thugs, wanting to win at any cost—I can only imagine how these young Black men are feeling right now. They of course know of the abuse and threats directed at them. Just imagine the psychological trauma and turmoil within that they must now contend with. It is simply unfathomable.
Last night, after England’s loss, some Black people were attacked: beaten and verbally abused by marauding hooligans. They were treated as though they too had been on the playing field and missed the penalties. The police had to dispel as fake, videos widely circulated on social media purporting to show a Black man being thrown into the River Thames and rumors of others being stabbed and thrown onto train tracks. These are indications of the perilous conditions as a result of the unwarranted racist abuses against the three Black players.
I had wanted to watch the game at local pub but my 15 year old daughter, Aly, who has too much sense, said “No, mum. What if a Black player makes a mistake, we will not be safe”. She is 15 years old for-goodness-sake and she has to live with this fear in the back of her mind. Imagine the inner damage this awareness does and the implications on her mental health, all our mental health. I have brothers in London whom I texted just to make sure that they were safe at home.
News of the backlash also made headlines of major U.S. papers.
In 1996 Southgate, the current England manager, missed a penalty that saw England knocked out by arch rivals Germany. He was vilified in the media so he knows only too well what emotions Rashford, Sancho and Saka are going through. The difference with Southgate’s case is that random white people were not targeted for abused, or threatened or physically harmed.
The Football Association (FA) has condemned the racism and barbaric behavior. Will it really change anything when there is really no accountability? HRH Prince William, who is England’s FA president tweeted, “I am sickened by racist abuse aimed at England players after last night’s match”. I applaud him for using his voice and position on this occasion. I only wish the same had been afforded his sister in-law, Meghan Markle, who had desperately needed his support and protection from the racism she also endured.
This morning as I walked to work, my shoulders felt heavy and hunched because I carried these three young men on my shoulders. After all, they had helped carry the whole nation on theirs all the way to the final.
We win together, we lose together.
Ms. Allimadi writes for Black Star News from the U.K.