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Three missed penalties for England and another loss in the fight against racism in football

Will racism ever end; in life, in football especially? 

Why would human beings from a particular ethnic group and with a particular skin tone be cruel, hostile, and go as far as hurting another set of human beings, emotionally and physically just because they are from a different ethnic group or have a different skin colour? Something both sets of human beings have no control over. Oh, dear! What makes one race or skin superior to another? Many questions, few answers.

This Sunday, racism reared its ugly head once again. Just as the ball left the left boot of 19-year-old forward, Bukayo Saka into the gliding palms of Gianluigi Donnarumma, instead of the net, meaning that the search for a major title for England since 1966 continues, many had begun to fear the worst. His was the last of three penalties missed by England on the night. Marcus Rashford was the first to miss. He sent the keeper the wrong way but his effort evaded the target by the tiniest of inches as the ball came against the foot of the right post. Then, Jadon Sancho stepped up and only found the PSG keeper.  

There were two common factors in all three misses. First, the players were at least age 23 or under. Second, they were all blacks. The second shouldn’t have mattered. Yet, it did. It was the only thing that mattered from 10:47 pm that Sunday. 

They are black players, so what? Black players representing a country of 55 million people. 55 million people of different skin colours, of different ethnicities, and different birth backgrounds. Yet, the conversation on social media after Saka’s miss was the imminent racist attacks on these players. What did they do wrong more than not score a penalty? Forget the fact that this bunch had achieved what no English team could in almost six decades, forget the fact that they had given everything to be here, made us all happy for most and were only denied by tiny margins, forget the fact that the lads and the team were making steady and considerable progress, they were subjected to racial abuse by anonymous lots behind a smartphone or computer and with a social media account just for having a different complexion. A complexion is considered to be minor. By who, though? 

Marcus Rashford has apologised for missing the penalty but should he also apologise for being black? Should he? This time, it was on Social Media. Other times, the abuses have been directed physically at the players in the stadiums by other players and “fans.” Many examples come to mind, and, no, we won’t dwell on them in this article.

Where do these unscrupulous persons draw the line? Will they ever? Are the owners of these Social platforms doing enough to curb this disease? Or are we giving power to these elements by constantly harping on the topic and giving them more than enough attention?

For the physical abuses, there are clamours for stricter punishments by football’s governing bodies. Truly, they can and should treat this topic with more seriousness. It is frustrating to see racists get away with slaps on the wrists in the name of punishments while the victims continue to suffer the effects mentally for long periods. Then, issues of financial doping get these same officials pacing and foaming- suspending club directors, banning teams from competitions, and making transfers. All of the anti-racism gestures- taking the knee, wearing customised armbands and shirts, exchanging mementos before a match haven’t seemed to yield much success. Will we continue to battle this menace all our lives?

Now, with the presence and possibilities of the internet and social media, comes the side we couldn’t have envisaged to be this terrible- social media racism. There is so much the bodies in charge of the sport can do to curb it. The very much they can do is to sensitise and make everyone aware of the dangers of this act. The power still lies with the owners of the platforms. How long would it take to track the persons behind hateful comments and hand them in to be prosecuted? What is the process of suspending these accounts and can the signup process be more detailed? Something has to be done and quickly too.

Many have said that racists thrive on the attention they get. They get satisfaction from being talked about. What if we all ignore them? What if we act like they don’t exist and just live our lives with the presumption that they would always be around?- that the world would always have good and bad people after all…  It sounds cool theoretically but in reality, are we saying victims should simply smile the pain away like robots? It’s near impossible. Every victim feels the pain of abuse and it will be insensitive to implore them to act like they weren’t abused.

Football and social media racism is one very sensitive topic. It is football, yet, it transcends football. Can it be curbed? Will it be curbed? These are tough questions to answer. What is certain is: we will continue to condemn it for as long as possible. Because, in the end, every human being is equal or at least, should be.

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