By Richard Sudan
As soon as three Black players Saka, Sancho, and Rashford missed their penalties for the England football team, resulting in Italy winning the game and becoming European champions, anyone who understands the deep history of racism in the United Kingdom knew exactly what was coming next. And, inevitably, it did.
The players were almost immediately subjected to a disgraceful torrent of racist abuse online, the kind of abuse, which was reminiscent of the scenes once witnessed in English football stands in decades gone by.
While the element of racist thugs might have become less visible in the stands themselves over the years, such racist sentiment did not disappear; it simply went underground and once again has reared its ugly face following the game.
In addition to the racist abuse suffered by England’s Black football stars, racist drunk hooligans unleashed in the aftermath of the game beating up and reportedly attacking people including Italian fans while another video surfaced showing a Black man apparently also attacked by fans.
There may well be other instances, which took place, which we have yet to hear about, but for many, this violent reaction was as predictable as the English weather. Others have suggested that England’s loss on the football field to Italy, may be followed by a rise in racist attacks generally.
And it’s not a stretch to suggest that this may well happen. Because, unfortunately, it is impossible to separate the English flag and nationalism from football. The racist fans may well represent a minority, but it is a large minority; large enough to pose danger to many people. And that’s enough. Ultimately, this is not really about racist English football fans, but plain old racism, which is sadly endemic in Britain despite the denialists.
And to be clear, those who are in denial of the problem are almost exclusively white people, and in particular white male political commentators, who have never and will never, experience such prejudice in the street or anywhere else for that matter. Those burying their heads in the sand about racism in England are almost always themselves English nationalists.
It matters not; that it is a minority of fans representing racist attitudes rooted in wider society. All it takes for there to be serious concern is a large minority to pose a threat to others in society. And in any case, those attitudes are far more commonplace than many might suggest.
What was positive however, were the countless messages of support that Rashford, Sancho, and Saka received from the wider public condemning the abuse. The abuse these young men will endure, and it will last for years, will at least continue to be condemned by right-minded people who acknowledge the impact of such racism and the lived experience of millions of non-white people.
But, there should be no doubt about the stark reality of racism in Britain. It’s part of the country’s history, present, and is embedded institutionally, and that is a fact.
And, what we saw just days ago has a direct connection to the past. The racist abuse that Saka received on his social media pages included racists sending monkey emojis to his platforms. Like the ignorant fascists who make monkey noises in football stands when Black players touch the ball, this racism goes right back to hundreds of years old pseudoscience in Britain which suggested that Black people were not human beings but closer to monkeys and animals. This dehumanisation was used as a justification for murder, and oppression alongside Britain’s role as one of the leading slave trading nations.
And so people should not dismiss the present day ramifications of this racism in 2021, lightly. People are taught such racism. And they are still being taught it. All of the privileged commentators and people with platforms crying loudly that the racism we saw represents a minority, should sit down, while those with the experience and knowledge of the impacts of racism get on with the serious work of dismantling it.
Equally, Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemning the racist reaction to a few missed penalties is quite something. He himself has a track record of racist form when it comes to racist commentary.
Credit goes to how Saka, Sancho and Rashford have handled the situation after the barrage of abuse they have faced. English football would be nowhere without the efforts of Black players and of players who come from an immigrant background. These facts though mean nothing to racists. They will continue to be racist and no amount of facts or reasoning will ever separate them and their views, because those views are a result of cultural attitudes that have their roots in a problem much deeper than football, much older than tournaments, and much more widespread than many would like to believe.
Richard Sudan is a journalist, writer and TV reporter working for Press TV.
(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)