Three Lions on a shirt. The song that we sang with hope in our hearts less than a week ago, venues and homes across the country lit up with excitement. Alongside the rest of the country, I really did think this was the best chance we’d had in a long time at winning a trophy. The team lifted us after 18 months of lockdowns and loneliness. Yet despite all of the joy and happiness, sexism and racism were both present at what should’ve been the best moments of this year.
After being trapped indoors for what feels like forever, me and my Mum decided we wanted to go to the pub to watch the football and absorb the atmosphere and excitement everyone was sharing. England shirts on, we booked a ‘big game’ table and left home. My excitement was dampened when upon arrival, we were shown to the ‘quiet end’. We were sat with a dodgy view of the television and surrounded by people eating dinner that so clearly weren’t there to watch the football. We were told we could move after 7:45pm, this was the cut off point for when spare tables were handed out. We had been told previously 7:15pm was the cut off for ‘big game’ tables. Trying to stay excited, we had some dinner and tried to make the best out of a disappointing situation.
A group of young boys arrived not long before kick off, despite being late they were shown to a ‘big game’ table with a good view of a large television. I have seen sexism when it comes to football all over social media platforms, but never seemed to have experienced it in real life. We had booked a ‘big game’ table and were clearly there to watch the football. Eventually we were moved and then warned of the ‘sex pests’ that would be near us. The game was great, the atmosphere was enjoyable and watching England smash Ukraine by four goals to nil made everything seem better.
We then decided to give the pub another go for the semi finals against Denmark, this time again sat somewhere where our view of the television was restricted. After dinner, we raced home to watch the game. I never expected to be treated so differently compared to men when trying to watch the football in public. I still enjoyed watching the team this summer and hope it really does ‘come home’ next year at the World Cup.
Sexism is evidently not the only discriminatory issue going on in the world of football. We all sat on the edge of our seats eagerly hoping England could beat Italy. Luke Shaw’s goal made it feel like we really could do it, but Bonucci’s equaliser in the sixty-seventh minute suddenly made the game so tense again. After almost two hours of football, the players lined up for a penalty shootout. Sancho, Rashford and Saka missed penalties and Italy lifted the trophy. Despite the heartache, I can say I was proud of the team and how far they had come along with the happiness they’d brought us for weeks. Within seconds, social media was filled with disgusting comments attacking them for the colour of their skin.
Racism on social media is a problem that needs to be addressed, sooner rather than later. Feeling awful, I went and reported as many comments on Instagram as I could. Each one came with a response that it didn’t breach community guidelines. There needs to be something in place that stops people from being able to torment one another on social media, hiding behind an anonymous account sending hatred through a screen. I can’t imagine how they felt, missing a penalty in a situation that meant that much… I’m sure it’s indescribable. Let alone dealing with the racism that then fills up your comment section. To then see the Rashford mural defaced really made me lose hope in society. Someone who stepped up to provide when the government wouldn’t, educating us all on how important free school meals are to those who need them. Saka and Sancho who have both provided so much for the communities they grew up in.
Even if they hadn’t achieved such incredible things off the pitch, racism is never okay.
In the modern game, there is no room for sexism or racism - or anyone who thinks it’s okay to discriminate against others participating or enjoying the game. The response of the fans was disgusting, and I hope that those who do that are ashamed and get punished.
Three Lions on a shirt. In just over twelve months, that anthem will be blasting again and we will cheer again. It’s coming home - postponed until 2022.