To many, and for a good reason, the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship final may seem geographically distant and remote. However, to a Person of Colour, the events that unfolded on the evening of Sunday 11 July will sadly feel uncomfortably close and familiar.
That evening, in a match that took place at London’s Wembley Stadium, England broke a fifty-five-year drought in reaching a major football championship final against Italy.
Devastatingly, the match ended in a heartbreaking penalty shootout with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka missing their penalties.
Despite England scoring a commanding goal within the first two minutes of the match opening, we watched with sadness and despair as the team that had brought the nation together narrowly missed changing the script we had become accustomed to since the 1966 World Cup.
As we watched, a realisation and a touch of sadness, which I suspect most People of Colour would have thought, if not recognized, began to form: These players are going to receive abuse. I wonder to what extent. This was my immediate reaction and words to my family, followed by, I hope they receive the support and recognition they deserve.
From the scenes on the pitch, I knew that their England manager, Gareth Southgate, had been there before and knew all too well what twenty-plus years of living with the painful reminder was like.
The Backlash and the Response
I expected a contingent of so-called fans to express their disappointment with—criticise—the whole game, extra time, and penalties. Because of the colour of the players’ skin, I also expected a small minority of misguided individuals to level some form of abuse towards the players. A person’s skin colour often becomes an easy target and the reason why an individual is severely judged by a few.
Within hours after the final penalty, the answer to the question I did not want answered was beginning to form. An incomprehensible cesspit of hatred was all over social media, not just posted by a small number of individuals fishing for a response, but some deliberately targeted the social media accounts of the players themselves. I will spare you the details, but there is one post I feel I should share because it totally shocked me to the core and raised concern about the safety of my family and myself.