Take The Knee and Stand Up to Racism; solidarity with English footballers

Three English footballers, Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, were racially abused by sections of English football fans widely on social media following England’s defeat to Italy in the UEFA Euro Cup final

July 15, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch

Progressive and anti-racist sections across the world have condemned the racist abuse against three English football players with immigrant backgrounds, Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, by sections of English football fans following England’s defeat in the UEFA Euro Cup final. On Sunday, July 11, in the finals against Italy, the three English players missed penalty kicks in the shootout which led to Italy’s win. Following that defeat, sections of English football fans started racially abusing these footballers on social media. 

Some English fans started their notorious ‘hooliganism’ before the beginning of the final match on Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London by vandalizing the premises of the stadium, booing the Italian fans and getting into altercations with the police. The match started with the Take The Knee gesture by all players of England and Italy protesting racism. Even this symbolic anti-racism gesture by the players was criticized by some MPs from the Conservative Party and several other right-wing figures in the UK.

According to reports, racists defaced the mural of Rashford in his hometown Manchester after the match. Following the reports, several hundred people protested the defacing of the mural and expressed solidarity with Rashford and other players who have been subjected to racial abuse.

Racist and xenophobic manifestations from football fans is nothing new in Europe. However, selectively targeting and blaming players with immigrant backgrounds for the team’s failure has become alarmingly high. Nowadays, most of the national football teams and clubs in Europe have talented players with immigrant backgrounds. These players are often targeted by racist and hyper-nationalist sections of fans of European national teams and football clubs. However, not all football fans in Europe promote discriminatory messages. Football clubs like AS Livorno (Italy), FC St. Pauli (Germany), Celtic FC (Scotland), AC Omonia (Cyprus), and several others cherish a strong anti-racist, ant-fascist, left-wing and gender sensitive ethos.

Following widespread outrage, UK prime minister Boris Johnson was forced to condemn the racial abuse against the three English players. But progressive sections have found the government’s response insufficient and not genuine.

Sabby Dhalu, co-convener of Stand up to Racism, said that Johnson had failed to condemn the booing of English footballers taking the knee and MPs including home secretary Priti Patel, Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith attacked the English team for taking the knee. “This gave succour to far right racists and fascists. Therefore the torrent of racist abuse since the final is not surprising. Racism starts from the top,” she said 

“We condemn the racist abuse Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho have received since the end of the Euro 2020 Final. This includes the vandalization of the Rashford mural in Manchester. We also condemn racist violence and abuse by racist England fans towards African, Caribbean and Asian England fans, Italy and Denmark supporters. This racism and xenophobia precisely illustrates why England footballers ‘took the knee’ at every match during Euro 2020,” she added. 

British socialist newspaper Morning Star wrote that “the English football team have come to represent everything that is best about England. The team were in a position to help to spread unity in the country after the ravaging 18 months of the pandemic. Prior to that there has been the division sown by the prolonged Brexit process. Unfortunately, following defeat in the final of the European Championships, the other side of England emerged, as the racists surfaced again, subjecting the black players to a lot of vile abuse.” 

The Take The Knee gesture started in the US in 2016 during an American football match when two players knelt while the US national anthem was playing to bring attention to the problems of racism and police brutality. Later it was adopted by several anti-racist groups and protesters across the world.

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