Where is England in the face of racism?

For the Three Lions, the defeat in the final was not the hardest thing to take after the Euro 2021 final. This setback was nothing compared to the wave of racism that swept over Sancho, Rashford and Saka after the meeting. Fifteen months later, where are we?


They may drive on the left, eat beans for breakfast and adore a funny royal family, but the English are not so different from us. At the start of the World Cup, they have the same debates as the French: stages of shame, boycott, should politicians go there… “They also talk about the price of beer there, and its ban at the stadium” laughs Eric Albert, correspondent for the World in London for nineteen years. He adds : “As usual, they begin to dream of the final victory. » Classic, what. But no one talks about the racism that hovers around the selection, awakened by the defeat in the final of Euro 2021. ” Not that I knowassures the French correspondent. But between the death of a queen, a double change of Prime Minister and an economic crisis, it could have escaped me! »

Two-speed racism

July 2021 is not that far away, however. At the time, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka missed their shot on goal in the Euro final against Italy. Despite the final at Wembley, football is not coming home, again. The disappointment and frustration will give way to torrents of racist insults towards the black players of the Three Lions. In the evening, a mural in honor of Marcus Rashford is vandalized. Rid of racist hooligans and bewildered in their stadiums, the English are rediscovering the racism caused by the round ball, which delights in the anonymity of social networks. “For 30 years, there has been a real awareness of the football authorities, who no longer let this happen in Englandrecalls Eric Albert. The Euro insults were on the internet, not at the stadium. I was at Wembley, people were disappointed, but no one said that to me. The racists are hiding now. » And law enforcement is tracking them.

In the days that followed, as Boris Johnson demanded stadium bans, police arrested eleven people, after identifying 207 posts as criminally objectionable. Twitter also reacts, says Daniel Kilvington, teacher at Leeds Beckett University and author of a study on the subject of online racism in English football: “Twitter has confirmed that they have removed or suspended accounts for violating their terms of service following the penalty shootout. They also added that 99% of people who posted racial slurs towards Rashford, Sancho and Saka had non-anonymized accounts, meaning the attackers were publicly identifiable. » This made it possible to launch legal proceedings with prison sentences. “Finally, footballers are only one shot away from being reminded of their skin color…” blows the English researcher. “Which proves that racism persists, there is still a lot of work to be done to combat overt forms of racism. This type of practice continues and seems to be getting worse. »

A calmer climate

A legacy of its former colonial empire, Britain’s cosmopolitanism continues to irritate some subjects of His Majesty Charles. “You see racism in the fabric of institutions such as education, housing, health, employment, media, sport. Racism is systemic analyzes the British professor, who fears that the scenario will repeat itself in the event of disappointment: “Racism is still bubbling to the surface, and history is repeating itself, unfortunately. Hopefully lessons have been learned from what happened in 2021, but that remains to be seen. » Especially since the English do not approach this meeting with confidence, recalls Daniel Kilvington: “England come into this World Cup after some poor results. Therefore, the positivity and hope may not be there like in previous tournaments. »

The questions are therefore above all sporting, with a calmer climate around the Three Lions. Because well before the final and the fateful penalty shootout, the context was already heavy around the English before the Euro. By their decision to kneel down before each meeting, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the English had put part of the public on their backs. Then Prime Minister, Boris Johnson had not supported them. Which had earned Bojo a lot of criticism after the competition, when he came to the aid of Saka. “You can’t fan the fire at the start of the tournament by calling our anti-racism message a political gesture, and then pretend to be disgusted when racism resurfaces” , tackled defender Tyrone Mings. This time, nothing like it. The controversies spare the locker room of the English selection, which focuses on Qatar and its overpriced beers. Until the next penalty shootout?

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By Adrien Hémard-Dohain
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