Saturday September 18, 2021

Sports and racism

July 20, 2021

It has been over a week since the final of the UEFA EURO 2020, a tournament that will go down in history for its amazing goals and historic matches.

My favourite match was the intense bout between Switzerland and France in the round of 16, in which Switzerland produced the most unlikely of comebacks as they defeated France on penalties. However, the final between England and Italy may be remembered for all the wrong reasons. It was a match which went onto penalties and saw three black players miss their shots, which ultimately caused England to lose the final. Bukayo Saka, a 19-year-old boy from West London, was given the duty of taking the deciding penalty, which he missed. Why would a teenager be put in such a high-pressure situation?

All three players received endless racist messages on their social media accounts. Marcus Rashford had his mural in Manchester vandalised by racists, despite being a national hero. These recent events have shown us exactly how big of an issue racism is, not only in sports, but in other parts of our lives as well. Mesut Ozil, an ex-German international player, put it perfectly “Every time we win, I am a German, but every time we lose, I am an immigrant.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson claims to have spoken with the representatives of these social media apps and warned them that they will face fines amounting to 10 percent of their global revenue if they fail to remove racism from their platforms. Although such measures can be taken to make a change, what really needs to change is our mentality. If that will not change, then nothing will.

Instead of throwing so much hate at these youngsters, we need to applaud them for their bravery of holding the weight of their country on their shoulders and stepping up to take the penalty kicks.

Sports such as football should be encouraging positive energy within and among communities. They are a source of entertainment, especially during challenging times such as that of Covid-19. Then why do we see such tournaments end with hate and violence? Ultimately, everything goes back to our mentality.

We cannot point fingers at specific countries for this, but instead at individuals who evidently have racist mindsets and are at the root of causing this hatred. It should be our collective responsibility to isolate and counsel them to make them realise the damage they are causing to humanity.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: [email protected]