By Andrew Warshaw
July 11 –
England’s failure to secure their first ever European crown was accompanied by the sadly familiar scene of so-called England fans heaping disgrace and ignominy on their country, before the match at Wembley Stadium and on social media after it.
Before the final scores of ticketless fans burst through security barriers to storm their way into Wembley for Sunday’s showdown with Italy. After the game came the somewhat predictable yet still stomach-churning racist abuse directed at the three England players, all of them black, who missed their crucial penalties in the shootout.
So much for multi-cultural attitudes in a supposedly tolerant, modern Britain.
How the rest of Europe, and UEFA for that matter, will view the latest degrading outbreaks of mindless hooliganism and disgraceful bigotry is too embarrassing for 99% of England’s football supporters to contemplate.
The sight of outnumbered riot police and news of 49 arrests and 19 injured police officers were certainly not the kind of sorrow-drowning headlines the country would have been proud of.
The English Football Association was quick to condemn the action of those responsible.
“These people are an embarrassment to the England team and to all of the true fans who wanted to enjoy one of the most important matches in our history,” a spokesperson said. “We will work with the relevant authorities to take action against anyone who is identified to have illegally forced their way into the stadium.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, the racist abuse that followed after the game was equally, if not more, ugly.
Only in April following numerous instances of online abuse, a number of clubs, players, athletes and sporting bodies took part in a four-day boycott of social media.
But after they all missed in the 3-2 shootout loss to Italy, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka were immediately targeted on the same platforms, prompting condemnation from the government and the FA.
“This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.”
The FA, not for the first time in recent months, expressed its outrage over such discrimination.
“We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team,” a statement said
“We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible.
“We will continue to do everything we can to stamp discrimination out of the game, but we implore government to act quickly and bring in the appropriate legislation so this abuse has real life consequences.”
While inquests over fan behaviour will continue, questions have been raised over the government’s decision to allow 60,000 fans into the stadium in the first place, just at the time when the country is experiencing the highest number of daily Covid cases anywhere in Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was one of those who expressed “grave concern” , questioning the decision to allow tens of thousands of spectators into Wembley for the semi-finals and the finals amid fears over the spread of the Delta variant, though whether her sudden concerns were motivated by another political opportunity to kick the Brexited English in an area that is sensitive for them, only she and her European colleagues can answer truthfully .
That’s another story, of course. But it nevertheless adds to the mood of national despondency and anguish in the aftermath of a competition England had high hopes of winning.
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