'Racists attacking Bukayo Saka are not England 'fans' - now is the time to tackle this disease' - opinion piece

The thin veneer of so-called ‘football fans’ cracked spectacularly in the aftermath of England’s heartbreaking defeat in the final of Euro 2020.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 10:00 am

While the Three Lions were the darlings of the nation – thanks to the likes of Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka et al – as they progressed through each round, all seemed rosy.

But the undercurrent of disgusting racism and prejudice, which we have seen all too often, was bubbling just below the surface.

And it broke through after three young men, who in my view were brave and heroic in footballing terms, failed to convert from the penalty spot.

Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka of England speak during a pitch inspection prior to the Euro 2020 final (Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga - Pool/Getty Images)

The vile keyboard warriors took to social media, spewing their hatrid towards Marcus Rashford, Saka and Jadon Sancho.

No, right-thinking person could ever, surely, think this is acceptable. Not now, not in the past, not in the future.

Those players represented our nation – you, me and impressionable children who idolise them – with pride, passion and dignity.

Thankfully, in the days to follow the final, we have seen the true colours of our nation demonstrated by the vast majority who are taking a stance against the vocal minority.

From those changing their social media status to take a united stand, to residents showering a defaced mural of Rashford with messages of love and support, it seems like a line in the sand has been drawn.

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But we must all do our level best to make sure that line doesn’t become blurred by the latest celebrity controversy or government embarrassment to make the headlines and push this vital issue from homepages and bulletins.

And I’m not just talking about the racist abuse that is targeted at the famous and sportsmen and women.

Yes, that can be vital in pricking the public conscience, but we must also call out such prejudice at all levels.

Only though standing together and not accepting this ‘disease’ can we hope to make strides forward.

Now is the time to strike, now is the time for social media companies and politicians to grasp the nettle.

Unless this happens I fear we will continue to have this debate on loop