The Euro 2020 football tournament has been exciting for football fans and anti-racists alike, with many teams taking the knee in opposition to racism. Sundayâs England V Italy Euro 2020 final is significant for anti-racists.
England has consistently taken the knee at all matches during the Euros, along with Wales and Belgium. The following teams took the knee in solidarity when playing either Belgium, England or Wales: Finland, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, Switzerland and Turkey.
A YouGov Poll on 10 June ahead of the tournament showed that there is huge public support in Italy for taking the knee. A staggering 73% support taking the knee, compared to only 19% opposed. The majority of English people surveyed also support taking the knee with 54% in favour and 39% against.
A higher proportion of ethnic minority communities in Britain support taking the knee, with 78% supporting and only 12% opposed. In Wales and Scotland 53% and 49% respectively support the gesture, 37% and 42% are opposed.
Of Western European nations competing in Euro 2020, Portugal had the most support with 79% supporting the anti-racist gesture.
Indeed the majority of those surveyed supported taking the knee with only the Netherlands narrowly opposing, with 45% against and 44% in favour. YouGov did not survey Belgium nor the Eastern European nations participating in the tournament.
Racists opposing taking the knee and LGBT Pride
Many were disappointed when France failed to take the knee. The multicultural French team was expected to take the knee, and it is widely believed that its u-turn was due to the far right #BoycottEquipeDeFrance campaign, with French fans threatening to boycott France in the event of the team taking the knee.
Economist journalist Stanley Pignal commented on Twitter:
âBlack, Blanc, Beurâ in English translates to âBlack, White, Arab,â the phrase emphasises the unity of its diverse team in achieving its historic World Cup win in 1998. Without elite footballer Zinedine Zidane, Marcel Desailly, Thierry Henry to name a few, it is hard to imagine a French victory that year.
Far right Hungary supporters demonstrated in Munich against taking the knee and LGBT Pride. European football association UEFA conceded to homophobic pressure from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and prevented the Allianz stadium in Munich being lit up in rainbow colours in solidarity with Pride month, at the Germany V Hungary match.
A minority of England fans at matches during Euro 2020 and at friendly matches prior to the tournament booed the England team for taking the knee. During the tournament the boos were progressively drowned out by applause from fans and at the semi final against Denmark the haters were silenced. Only a handful of people turned up to the far right demonstration against the England team taking the knee at Englandâs opening match against Croatia.
Englandâs take the knee gesture is even more significant given that the team resisted enormous pressure against taking the knee. Itâs tough stance forced the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to u-turn and oppose the booing of the team days before the tournament.
Johnson has failed to condemn many Tory MPs supporting those booing England taking the knee, including Home Secretary Priti Patel, Lee Anderson MP and Brendan Clarke-Smith MP. Patel said fans had a right to boo. Clarke-Smith disgracefully compared taking the knee to England performing the Nazi salute in 1938 World Cup in Germany. Anderson said he would boycott England matches.
Now that England has made history by reaching an unprecedented Euro final â the first time it has reached the final of an international tournament since its World Cup win in 1966 â the same Tory MPs now claim they support the England team.
Opposing Jingoism and Nationalism
The jingoism and nationalism usually associated with the Euros and World Cup has reared its ugly head again. A loud minority of England fans have booed the national anthem of every team England has played.
In London a family of Denmark fans were brutally attacked on bus after Wednesdayâs semi final at Wembley. Xenophobia, racism, fascism and the far right should have no place in football.
Whatever the result on Sundayâs final, we must reject racism and vehemently oppose violent attacks on Italy supporters or anyone else. We hope the passion and gusto with which the Italian team sings itâs national anthem will be duly applauded.
We hope Raheem Sterling and co, the diversity of the team and its contribution to Englandâs achievement in Euro 2020 get the recognition they deserve.