On Sunday, July 11th, the Football Euro Cup Final took place. Individuals across the globe, especially in Europe, traveled to parties, bars, houses, and gathered to watch the final game between England and Italy. Tensions high, within the first two minutes of the game, England scored a goal, setting the tone and leaving Italians worried for the ultimate outcome. As Italy scored in the second half, the 1-1 tie brought this match into overtime, until eventually ending in a penalty shootout. As Italy scored the three out of five goals, with England only having shot two, Italy’s win echoed across the globe for Italians and Italy fans everywhere. For England however, this devastating goal was not the only disappointment that would face the country. Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, and Jadon Sancho, were three of England’s players, allotted participation for the shootout; the three players who missed the goal. These players also happened to all be Black individuals. Now, England is facing an uproar in racist attacks and abuses, online and offline.
Soon after the match, so-called ‘fans’ took to social media, tweeting racist comments aimed at these three players, followed by numerous racial attacks throughout England, unto Black individuals everywhere. A mural in Manchester, depicting and memorializing Rashford’s charitable work, having campaigned for free school meals for vulnerable children, was defaced and vandalized. All across social media platforms, offensive, discriminatory, and racist messages have attacked and abused these three players, resulting in various statements to be issued condemning this behaviour and this reaction, by leading members of the public.
Tweeted by UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, he stated “This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media. Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.” Prince William, President of England’s Football Association, similarly took to the press in order to express his disbelief and discontent with the behaviors of the public, stating he was “sickened by the racist abuse aimed at England players.” In support of the team, most importantly, in support of these three players, individuals across the soccer world and throughout the English government raised their voices in disdain for this mistreatment, and in support of the team’s hard work. This turned the attention towards accountability for social media platforms, calling upon them to take necessary actions and place justified punishments on individuals that use their right to free speech to blatantly reject the rights of other individuals based on their skin. As the football association urged the British government to take action on legislation to criminalize online harassment, the online trauma continued to rage onward.
Before the game even began, the English team took a knee, demonstrating support for the Black Lives Matter movement and an end to racial inequality and discrimination. This staunch symbol directed for progress, directed as a means of social and political mobility to make a statement about basic human rights, seemed to be entirely ignored once England faced their loss. This all too familiar backlash has been witnessed before within the world of sports, boding inclusion and support when there is a win, yet a defensive bigotted attack once there is a significant loss. When you score, you’re Italian, you’re English, you’re French, but once you miss – you’re African, you’re an immigrant, you’re black. The inclusiveness only comes at the cost of an advantage, rather than illustrating actual, genuine desire to bridge the gap between racial inequality, proving not all sports supporters have a place within that community if the attitudes are intolerable. As a result, an anti-racism petition in attempts to ban those that carried out both, online and offline racist attacks, from all football matches in England – for life – has gained traction, reaching one million signatures. Pressing social media platforms and government officials for action, will continue, until a demonstrable change is witnessed.