From the Viewsroom

Football’s ugly underbelly

B Baskar | Updated on July 15, 2021

The wonderful spectacle on the pitch was marred by violence off it

The month-long Euro football festival, unfortunately left a bitter aftertaste. That England sadly lost and Italy were deserved winners almost threatened to become a footnote with the violence that followed the finals in London.

The racist abuse on social media of English players, especially the ones who missed the penalties — Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka — added another ugly and vicious coating to the violence. Rashford’s giant mural was defaced in Manchester by hooligans, though it must be added here that there were enough and more number of people who condemned it and quickly tried to restore the mural.

Rashford’s past year has been both eventful and controversial. He was single-handedly responsible for restoring school meals last year during the first lockdown after the Johnson government tried to shut it down. It was his high-profile public campaign that forced the Tory government’s hand to reverse its stand. For this Rashford came for a great deal of appreciation but was also seen as a thorn in the flesh of the Conservative Party.

To give credit where it’s due, the Football Association (FA) — the game’s governing body in England — was quick to condemn the violence and racist abuse. The FA even exhorted the social media companies to take action against those yobs who heaped racist abuse, which was indeed heartening.

But could the political establishment have done more to stop things from coming to such a pass? Wasn’t it in some indirect way complicit in all this? The English fans in Wembley routinely booed the national anthems of rival teams, and such boorish behaviour was not condemned by the ruling establishment. Players taking the knee before the match to foster racial equality was even dubbed as “gesture politics” by a senior Tory politician.

To put things in perspective, the violence witnessed last Sunday wasn’t anywhere close what occurred after England’s 1996 semi-final loss to Germany. But it’s a reminder of how far still football has to travel to stamp out violence and racism.

Published on July 15, 2021

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