Given my last post ‘The trouble with football is…..the football’ it’s not surprising that I didn’t have that much invested in Sunday nights final. The whole football frenzy, you could say, shot straight over my head. I find the army of ‘lads’ that seem to steam roll into our lives tiresome and the many thousands of social media pundits that are suddenly overnight ‘experts’ sharing ripped off statements and posts, passing them off as their own words of wisdom, are completely cringeworthy.
All jokes aside though I can completely see that this England squad is different. They all appear to be hard working, successful young men representing us, and more importantly themselves, in a dignified manner. So many members of this team are excellent examples of the youth in this country; they are diverse, they are advocates for standing up for what they believe in and they all seem very humble and in touch with their roots. To bear witness to horrific scenes post game: scenes of violence, scenes of racism, scenes of antisocial behaviour, is utterly disgraceful.
I make jokes about not being into football and finding it all a bit excessive, in reality I have always found the arena of football intimidating and overwhelming. As a woman, when faced with a boisterous crowd of drunk men chanting football songs and being generally loud and officious, it is highly intimidating. I have lost count of the amount of times that when faced with these large groups of men, I have endured some sort of abuse – both verbal and physical. I have been called a ‘slag’ for refusing the advancing of 5 men, I have been groped, grabbed and swung around, told to smile; told to ‘cheer up love, it might never happen’. These events are thrust upon me like I should be grateful, happy even, that a pack of drunken men are leering at me telling me I have ‘nice tits’. The fear and anxiety that these events cause is horrendous so over the years I have avoided it and the kinds of people that the football world attracts. I know it is a generalisation and many fans are not complete wankers, but when you look out to a sea of this kind of behaviour you have to assume they are all a potential threat, you have to do this as a means of self preservation. So the large crowds of loud men that converge at these events do not welcome me, and I am sure I am not alone in feeling that way. What recent events are educating the masses though, is that it isn’t even welcoming for the actual players.
The football culture in this country is broken, the reactionary behaviour of some has left me speechless and shocked over the years. The last 24 hours have also highlighted yet again the problem of racism within the footballing world. The young men that missed those penalty shots last night were met with a huge amount of racist comments – their social media pages were littered with them. The racist faction of football fans is real and is seemingly being left to multiply by the very foundations of our white patriarchal society. It is rooted deep within our societal core and unless we do something about it this will likely go unchecked.
Many would argue saying that racists are a minority of the population, that these racists are not true football fans. However, when several footballers wanted to take the knee to make a political statement about systemic racism, they have frequently been met with disdain. They are told that football is not the place to make political statements. Given the vitriol that has been catapulted onto our front-page news, I would argue that yes, football is exactly the space to make a political statement. Certain players within the England squad have had to endure this level of racism their entire lives, and even now when they are successful players in their own right, they are still enduring it. It is a sad and despicable thing to see. It is almost impossible to argue that there is not a problem in this country when our government officials on the one hand condemn last nights racist behaviour, but will not publicly condemn the booing the players have had to endure whilst taking the knee at other games. Something that should have been so positive has been tainted by extreme levels of hatred and absolutely needs to be addressed. The reality for me is that I associate football with an intimidating mob mentality that makes it impossible for me to connect with so whilst I applaud the behaviour of the players and several thousands of the fans, I will never feel at ease or truly welcomed into this kind of arena. I read somewhere that if England lose domestic violence rises by 38% – BUT even if they win it rises by 26%. How sad is that? I am sorry that we didn’t win, but if this game makes you a fundamental dickhead, do everyone around you a favour, and try another game…….