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: https://www.facebook.com/gregosh.mc/videos/844395033144239.
Oh well, there’s still the World Cup to look forward to, next year.