“It’s coming home” “it’s coming home” was a chorus echoing in and outside England in the build up of UEFA Euro 2020 final match between Italy and England.
The mantra, which is based on football’s English origin, stamped the long held hope of the English national team bringing a trophy home for the first time since 1968. The Three Lions had shown exceptional performance from the start of the tournament, challenging the failure stereotype that has followed it in other outings and hyping the hope of fans.
Alas, in the end, it didn’t come home. It stopped short at the doorpost, shattering the hope of millions and throwing Black members of the English team open to racism.
The Sunday night game went into penalty shootout after the match ended 1-1, following Italy’s Bonucci’s 67th minute comeback goal which canceled England’s Shaw two minute early 1-0 lead.
It was England’s first major final in 55 years. Being played in Wembley, the fans had gathered in thousands in the squares, defying covid warnings. Their wait for victory turned sour when Bukayo Saka, 19, Jadon Sancho, 21, and Marcus Rashford, 23, all Black players, missed their penalties.
It was a defining moment that England’s coach Gareth Southgate can reckon with. He had missed a similar penalty in 1996, and was quick to console the youngsters. In football, these things happen, they’re part of the game – losing and winning. But to English fans, the Black players were culpable, their skin color made England lose.
“It’s coming home until the ni**ers ruined it,” an English fan wrote on social media.
“Every ni ** er missed a pen. Rashford, Sancho, Saka go kill yourselves ni ** ers monkeys, or return to your natural habitat of growing bananas. Fu**ing slaves,” another wrote.
Although there has been resounding support for the embattled players who have given their best to bring England to the final, the racial attacks targeting the Black players have once again exposed the depth of racism in England. Recently, England players started taking a knee before the kickoff of matches. A practice that has attracted mixed reactions. It was notable in England’s opening match against Croatia, where boos were drowned by applause.
Southgate assembled a very young diverse team, who by their performance, toppled the woeful memories of the past. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “they have done the nation proud and deserve great credit,” an assessment many others believe.
However, in the end, expectation does not determine what happens in the field. So once again, it did not come home. But unlike France and other national sides with diverse teams, who have learnt to a great extent, to keep skin color away from the beautiful game, English fans’ racial tantrums show England still has a deep-seated race problem.