EURO 2020 is now over and on reflection it showed us a lot about “British” culture. On the one hand it truly was refreshing to see the Scotland team back in action in an international tournament. It has been far too long and for our short period in the Euros, yes sir, we boogied and, yes sir, it was quality while it lasted. On the other hand, this Euros tournament has shone a light on modern-day Britain.
You could be watching a Scottish or Welsh game and the commentators would still spend 90-plus minutes hyping up the England men’s team and talking about 1966. It soon becomes the absolute focus of every broadcast football match whether England are playing or not.
Now I have no issue with hype in football and I cannot and would not try to chastise England fans and the English media for getting excited about the England making it to the Euro finals. What we should be doing as Scottish football fans is questioning why we don’t have Scottish football pundits and commentators reporting on all these games during tournaments to address this disparity.
Scotland really needs its own media and broadcasting that is free of London control, and football tournaments like the Euros only bring this issue into clearer focus. We are essentially forced to watch another countries’ media broadcasts if we want to keep up with the tournament.
Once Scotland were out the competition, the usual rigmarole began with numerous writers and commentators expressing their faux outrage that many fans in the rest of the UK would not be supporting the men’s England football team.
I say “faux” outrage because it only makes it sadder if it is genuine. If you support Scotland, then you support Scotland. The idea that would make you anti-Italian or Portuguese is as ridiculous as claiming it makes you anti-English.
Now this tournament saw England get all the way to the final where they eventually lost to Italy on penalties. England footballers Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka all missed their spot kicks. Notably all three of these England stars are people of colour and suffered intense and widespread racist abuse after the game. A mural of Marcus Rashford was defaced with obscenities almost instantly. Only hours before they had been deemed the heroes of their country by fans and were now suffering racism at the hands of those same fans.
I mention this because there were numerous articles, online discussions and TV programmes in the run-up to the final that were dedicated to “Brits” that were not supporting England and how we can tackle this dreadful problem. Meanwhile, we have the most obvious racism playing out before our very eyes, yet the UK Government will tell you that the UK does not have a racism problem.
The UK Government was of course quick off the mark to respond with, what I would call faux condemnation. The Prime Minister maintained at PMQs this week that he did not want a culture war.
What culture is it he is trying to defend precisely? The culture that allows Africans to be described as “flag-waving piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”? Those are after all his own words. His government is full of MPs routinely decrying “snowflakes” and the “woke” – terms which literally mean, “alert to injustice in society, especially racism” – but they are most definitely not trying to stoke a culture war, definitely not …
Priti Patel was quick to call out the racism against the England team but has had her head completely in the sand in condemning England supporters that were booing the players taking the knee against racism. The Home Secretary actually said it was “gesture politics”.
Surely the events after the match only prove that taking the knee is far from being a gesture. It is a protest against what is very real, very systematic and very institutionalised in the UK.
It is worth noting that England footballer Tyrone Mings was quick to call out Priti Patel’s complete hypocrisy on this during the week, and rightly so. Marcus Rashford has routinely used his immense platform and influence for the good of communities and to speak up for those unable to speak for themselves. He forced a Tory U-turn on free school meals, and his campaign to end child food poverty is as incredible as it is necessary.
To be honest, both have done more to highlight inequality in Britain than this government or opposition ever has in the last decade. Similarly, over the last few years we have seen England footballers and ex-footballers such as Gary Neville criticising the UK Government’s actions.
Kier Starmer is sweating blood in Blackpool for votes apparently but in reality the Labour Party would have a better chance with one of the donkeys giving rides on the beach in charge.