Racial Abuse Towards Black Footballers: A Country’s Passion Reveals Its Bigotry

Featured Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images, A mural of the England forward Marcus Rashford was defaced in Manchester.

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On Sunday the 11th of July 2021, every football fan anticipated with excitement the last game of the UEFA European Football Championship 2020: England vs Italy. My English friends kept bragging about every English win so far (as they should!), and despite not watching any game, I was still interested in knowing which country would win at the end. I woke up the next morning to no new messages on the group chat. “Strange…” I thought, as it was usually full of “IT’S COMING HOME!” texts, but not this time. I checked on one of my friends’ Instagram stories and read: “So thankful my Uber driver was black because BOY…we’re getting a 90% chance of high racism tomorrow…”

I read Italy 3-2 England everywhere. English Black people warning each other on social media, mostly Twitter to be safe, to take Ubers, and not to walk by themselves on their way home during this sensitive time. But why?

Monkey emojis and N-word comments are flooding under most posts related to English Black professional footballers, particularly Marcus Rashford (who has gained recognition for his campaign against child food poverty), Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka, who all missed penalties during the last game Yes, you read that correctly.

Tweets like the ones above reveal not only England but a lot of European countries’ sentiment towards Black people and minorities in general. Tolerated and appreciated when we do something good but publicly lynched when we don’t. National pride is one thing, but during every game, and whenever it involves Black players and non-White players, it reveals time and time again a deeper and darker truth: White people only like us for what we can do for them, but when we fail to meet their expectations, we are no longer “all in this together”, we are “foreign”, “the other”, “the nuisance”. Minorities are perceived as servants who must be irreproachable to preserve these countries’ glory. But they, on the other hand, had and still have no shame stealing our home countries’ resources, belittling our languages and cultures, and still not considering us as equals and humans with emotions, deserving of respect and empathy.

Black people are not safe during and after sports games. Musa Okwonga, an acclaimed British author who already spoke about the English team also tweeted: “Hate is a strong word. But the racist relying on black English footballers to bring them glory as if they were their servants, then turning on them as soon as they fell short of their dreams, have my deepest contempt”

It is also important to note that domestic violence towards women also increased at an alarming rate because of the games. Thankfully, hotlines have been put in place to assist the ones experiencing abuse but the world stays focus on white men’s tears over other men missing penalties. Pathetic.

The FA (Football Cup), The Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and even Prince William rightfully condemned these acts of racism, but are words enough?

Killian Mbappé, one of the most popular and successful black players for the French national team also faced racial abuse when he missed his penalty against Switzerland, and newspapers all over the world had a field day blaming France’s loss solely on him. As a French Black person myself, reading racist comments from French supporters on social media always left me boiling inside, as they tend to always forget all the wins French Black players contributed to the country in the past, whenever they lose.

I remember when France won the World Cup in 2018 and the French Black players still faced racism, but how at the same time, how French White people all of a sudden celebrated them singing their names from the song “Ramenez la coupe à la maison” from popular French-Congolese singer Vegedream. French Black citizens were even sharing how they were treated better by French White people after the country’s win, but a country’s win or loss should always bring people together regardless of their race.

It’s one thing to be disappointed, but why make it a racial issue?

“Hate is a strong word. But the racist relying on black English footballers to bring them glory as if they were their servants, then turning on them as soon as they fell short of their dreams, have my deepest contempt.”

Mario Ballotelli is the first European Black footballer that I read about, when he spoke about the racism he was experiencing as an Italian, from Italian supporters, and knowing Italy’s racial bias, it isn’t surprising, but why is it still tolerated? There are assholes everywhere, but isn’t it alarming when the same issue is repeating itself across the borders?

Calling Black people racial slurs because your country lost a game is not normal. Beating up Black people in the streets because your country lost a game is not normal. Changing your attitude towards black people because your country lost a game is not normal. Losing your temper and beating up your girlfriend or wife because your country lost a game is not normal. This is just a game. A passion for football and any other sport should never justify the verbal and physical violence experienced by minorities.

England is a great country because its minorities enhanced the country’s history and culture. English fans, regardless of their ethnicities should be proud of their football team’s performance during this championship, especially Rashford Saka and Sancho. Racism in the football industry, and in sports, in general, should be taken more seriously.