Italy’s Euro 2020 conquest has been overshadowed by racist abuses subjected to three members of the England squad who had a bad hair day.
Social media exploded with all manner of invectives aimed at Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka — who missed from the spot in the 3-2 shootout loss at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
The vibrant youngsters were immediately the subject of inundated scorn on social media, with Twitter deleting over 1,000 tweets pouring vitriol on England’s debacle.
A mural of Rashford, who has indefatigably campaigned over child food poverty in recent months, was also defaced in the Withington suburb of South Manchester.
It’s so heart-wrenching to see young players who battled tooth and nail for the shirt being smashed into smithereens after boldly stepping up to shoulder the burden of their countrymen when their senior colleagues chose to sit back in trepidation.
Nobody seems to appreciate the fact that England were battling Italy in the finals and it’s the same players who had fired them to that stage of the competition
The incident was a culmination of attacks that began with a section of fans and a significant number of U.K. politicians castigating the team for supporting Black Lives Matter.
Few expected England fans to boo their own team at the start of this year’s European football championship, but that’s precisely what transpired when the entire team took a knee in a noble gesture against racism and discrimination.
But racism in football is not a new phenomenon. Data released in 2020, brought to the forefront the grim reality of deeply rooted racist behaviour and attitudes on and off the pitch.
Figures from the British inclusion and diversity charity organisation, Kick It Out, have shown cases of racist abuse rising by 53 per cent between 2019-2020.
On December 8, players from Paris Saint Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir stormed out of the pitch during a Champions League match following an alleged racist slur from the fourth official towards Istanbul Basakshehir’s assistant coach.
While we unequivocally seek to add our voices to the rising worldwide condemnation, the ugly incident should serve as a pointer that our hands are not entirely clean.
The sad and gloppy reality has ultimately set in. Cases abound in Kenya where players have been subjected to all manner of intimidation and assaults for one reason or another.
I was present in a recent top-flight football match when FKF President Nick Mwendwa was slurred by supporters of one of the top Kenyan Premier League clubs.
They told him right to his face he shouldn’t be spearheading football in this country because he comes from a community where people hardly play football.
We don’t deserve a platform to lash out at racists when, back here at home, we whip up unnecessary tantrums when a player from a certain community turns out for a club identified with another community.
As long as we continue to fester tribal bigotry, we have no business at all lambasting England fans for practicing racism.
We must first put our house in order and learn to use sports to unite a country that has profound historical, structural and social divides.