Over the last 24 hours, I’ve been reflecting on the events following the European Championship final in which we saw the worst of our nation, from violence to racism.
Football is an extremely passionate sport, as the famous quote goes “it’s not a matter of life and death…it’s much more important than that!” At times, it can certainly feel like that, and as England reached the final of a major tournament for the first time in 55 years, the entire country was in raptures, anticipating what could have been one of the greatest celebrations of our lifetimes. However, it wasn’t meant to be, and Italy deservedly finished the tournament as champions.
The immediate responses from many were those of anger, frustration, devastation, and pure emotion. I even found myself arguing with friends about tactics and decisions on substitutes, all absolutely futile and pointless. It felt like our time, and after everything that’s happened over the last 18 months, we truly did believe that Football was Coming Home.
This morning there was the hollow feeling that follows the day after losing in a final, but then seeing in the news that some of our players, including the three young members of the team that were brave enough to take penalties, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, and Bukayo Saka had been subjected to racist abuse online, left me sick to my stomach. There is no excusing it, there is no room for it, and more needs to be done to tackle it and remove it from our society.
Over the last month, we have seen the entire country get behind a team, and a manager, that truly represented modern day England. Players from multiple ethnic backgrounds, religions, and communities, uniting as one. Club rivalries were not present, something that stifled the previous golden generation of talent we’ve had in our teams. Gareth Southgate, has shown true leadership, and has rightly gained the trust of the players, creating the bond that has made them the special group they deserve to be recognised as. From his own penalty woe of Euro 96, to consoling Bukayo Saka, an image that will live with many of us for some time, and we all hope that Saka will find his redemption in the bright career that lies ahead for him. As a country, we can be proud of this team and everything they represent.
One of the greatest and most rewarding outcomes we constantly see from the organisations we work with at my2be, is through connecting people, they learn the unique challenges faced by those that are different from themselves. This moves us a step closer to our mission to give everyone an equal opportunity.
Connecting with people has always been one of my personal positives of social media, but we know there are many negatives to these platforms, including the lack of verification which gives free reign to racists to hide behind fake profiles and deliver their unwarranted and unwanted abuse.
Not once today, have I thought about the match, what could have been etc. instead, I’ve spent most of today feeling dejected, confused, and powerless, as this situation of racism on social media has become normalised. I then found inspiration from two of my own heroes in Rio Ferdinand and Marcus Rashford who have since spoken out and are looking at what positive actions can be taken to ensure that those with the power to help eradicate this can, and I hope they get the response they deserve from the governments and social media companies.
You only have to look at the mobilisation of the fans and wider footballing community to prevent the now defunct European Super League to see the power of the people, and something similar is needed to move forward and take action on ending racism. With that in mind, we are creating an open invitation to speak with individuals, organisations, and leaders to better understand what we can do as a collective to force the hand of governments and social media companies to take the necessary action.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to join the conversation.