Well, we lost, narrowly, but to a marginally better Italian team. I wasn’t as upset as I thought I’d be; but that was because it was a pretty good game, with none of the refereeing controversies that often accompany these matches; and – secondly – because I thought the lads had won the more important contest: of decency, against racism and the other characteristics of the ‘populist’ Right. A young, refreshingly multi-racial and brilliantly skilled team, many with social consciences which had impacted on politics – Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free meals for poor schoolchildren during the pandemic, for example – and insisting on ‘taking the knee’ (against racism) against the advice and indeed scorn of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, had progressed further in an international competition than any team since 1966. That must be good, I thought, as I retired, untroubled, to bed.

But then came the morn, and disillusionment. Apparently the fact that the three players who failed to score in the crucial penalty shoot-out at the end were black  ignited racism again. The social media were filled with vile attacks on them. A Conservative MP and a Right-wing comedian made the point that if Rashford had spent more time on his football skills than on politics England might have won. Italian fans were brutally attacked outside the ground. Which of course undid much of the good the players and their manager seemed to have achieved prior to the game. I’ve begun to despair; not for the first time, I have to say. (And to be glad that I’m now a demi-Swede.)

I’m still not convinced that England is a predominantly racist society. A few hooligans running amok can seem an awful lot. The problem now seems to be that – like Trumpists in America – they now feel they are encouraged by their ‘betters’, especially Boris, whose racist remarks in the past are by now notorious; and the sheerly evil – there’s no other word for it – Priti Patel, with her demented campaign against immigrants. Her latest move on this front, by the way, is to make it an indictable crime for captains of British ships to rescue refugees who find themselves in mortal danger on the high seas. That of course would contravene not only British and European laws but also the long-established international  Law of the Seas. This comes after Patel’s passage through the Commons of her Bill to outlaw many kinds of protest, including loud and annoying ones. The football rather distracted attention from that. And of course there’s much more where that came from: festering in the rancid minds of this present bunch of ministers. We really are going to wake up one morning to find ourselves living in an authoritarian, even ‘fascist’, state. That might have happened, of course, even if England had won the penalty shoot-out. Indeed, that could have made the people happier, and so more accepting of their fate.

I understand that England fans also attacked Pizzerias. One Italian had anticipated that – rather amusingly, I think:

Oh well, there’s still the World Cup to look forward to, next year.  

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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5 Responses to Footy

  1. Gary Ramsay says:

    I can’t get over it: I keep re-living the Rashford penalty (so God knows how it must be for him). Very predictable response from some Tory MPs. Can’t help themselves it seems. They’d expected the team to do badly and had calculated greater political capital could be earned by playing to the Sun/Mail/Express/Telegraph constituency by attacking the “wokeness” of the England players. They kept their heads down until they saw a chance- in our defeat-to put them back above the parapet. How they must have seethed when Rashford earned justified praise for his stance on school meals; his “failure” gave them their chance for revenge. A lot of glib talk about practising penalties. Don’t they think the players do this? I cannot imagine what the pressure is like, especially facing a giant in goal ( by the way, you have to feel sorry for Pickford- saving 2 penalties and being on the losing side).
    Some right wing commentators claim that “taking the knee” is divisive. Is calling out racism divisive? They pretend those booing at games are protesting against the “Marxist associations” of BLM. In many years of going o Upton Park I never heard anyone discussing Marx. These fans are the heirs (perhaps literally in some cases) of those who threw bananas and followed England abroad so they could boo black English players.
    You’re so right about Priti Patel. Absolutely dreadful. I remember Andrew Marr upbraiding her in an interview because she was smirking ( “it’s no laughing matter” sort of thing) but it turns out she often has a silly grin on her face. I think it’s because she can’t believe her luck. It’s very amusing to see her humiliated on the issue of capital punishment by Ian Hislop (Question Time).
    I’m sorry, I see that I’m going on too long. Anyway, you kindly asked in my response to your last piece about what I was doing. I’ve retired after working in libraries and now live in West Dorset. Disenfranchised. My former MP was Oliver Letwin. That was bad enough, but his successor is a brexiter whose most recent photos show him sporting a Union Jack COVID mask (don’t they all). Glad to see you’re happy in Sweden. A country suddenly popular with parts of the Tory press. Another story, I’ve gone on long enough.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. marieclausen says:

    I’m a little surprised you retired untroubled to bed and awoke astonished to find that the three Black players who had missed their penalty shots had been subjected to racist invective. After all, they had already been the subject of racist taunts even before that sad turn of events. I saw the writing on the wall the second Saka missed. Perhaps deep down you don’t believe England to be as racist as it is because you yourself are decent and would never think to behave in that way? If only all Englishmen were like you, then all would be well. But they’re not sadly, and I think many of us who have been at the receiving end of English nationalism and racism have learned to cringe and duck in instant and constant expectation of it (even though a Caucasian/European such as me can hardly claim to have been as viciously targeted as these lads have.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • My latest post explains why I didn’t anticipate the furore; and perhaps anticipated the post-furore furore rather better! Incidentally, I’ve also been subjected to nationalistic invective, in the US particularly, but – like you – mildly and ineffectively by comparison wth Rashford, and without its affecting my views of Americans generally. Generalisations about the degrees of’ racism’ in a country, based on partial evidence and especially on personal experience, are usually unhelpful, and nearly always reductionist.

      Liked by 1 person

      • marieclausen says:

        I’m not at all surprised you would have encountered it in the US – so have I. In fact, anyone who has ever lived in more than one country or even just travelled is bound to have come across it, as it is a universal trait in humans to suspect those ‘not from around these parts’. I have never yet set foot in a country where covert and/or overt racism isn’t in effect. Sadly, it appears to be a species-level trait.
        Some cultures do of course make more currency out of it than others (the Third Reich being at one extreme end of the spectrum) and places like international schools or cosmopolitan cities at the other end.
        I would, speaking as a social scientist now rather than as a private individual, hypothesise that there are several factors that can probably with a degree of certainty help to determine to what extent racism may be prevalent in a particular society:
        1. the relative level of economic (and social and political) inequality;
        2. the absolute level of wealth in the society (allowing for international travel as a matter of course);
        3. the quality of education accessible to all; and
        4. the degree of long-term (i.e. more than three generations) diversity in the community combined with the degree to which this diversity/cosmopolitanism has been adopted as part of the culture’s (positive) identity.
        I would suggest that Britain struggles with 1 more than virtually any other state in the western world, with the obvious exception of the US.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Tom says:

    Patel is a really major problem, placed in the Home Office by Johnson to stir up the culture wars, including race, she never misses an opportunity to do so. She’s happy to take the flack for him, while as a first generation Asian immigrant can claim to be the subject of racism herself. She was dismissed by May for having unauthorized meetings with the Israelis, which didn’t stop Johnson appointing her to the most sensitive cabinet post. And the electorate don’t seem bothered. The UK is not an overtly racist country but covertly there is, sadly, a great deal.

    Liked by 1 person

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