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How the European Championship Exposed Racism in Soccer

Sabrina Artusa

Posted on July 20, 2021 02:34

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Fans are eager to insult players--for making mistakes, for missing a shot, for looking a certain way, or sometimes, without a reason. Some fans, drunk on the power to insult and ridicule with essentially no repercussion, cross the line from playful heckling to all out abuse.

Last week Italy won the European Championship in a shoot-out. England hasn’t won a major soccer tournament since 1966 and Italy had a reputation to uphold, so the pressure was definitely high. After an unbearably tense 120 minutes of free kicks, yellow cards, and close calls, Italy and England entered a shoot-out. 


The dreaded shoot-out is subjected to conflicting opinions.  When I watched it with my family, my grandmother said “It is a bad way to win”, and I have to agree. Putting the game in the hands of five players seems unfair. It is less representative of the team’s skill and is more determinant on individuals, particularly the goalies.


The players who miss their shot bear more of the burden of losing than if the team lost by the end of the match. In fact, I remember the announcer musing that captains should choose the penalty shootout lineup based on who can endure the pressure or cope with missing a shot.


However, I doubt many would be able to bear the criticism and hate that Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, and Jadon Sancho have received.

 

These three players missed their shots, ultimately leading to Italy’s victory. Saka was close to tears. Losing is part of the game, but by no means warrants the abuse that many have inflicted upon the three players. Some upset fans, galvanized by tribalism, used their disappointment as an excuse to spout racism and abuse. Fans were out of control after the tournament--264 arrests were made just 24 hours after the game.

 

Saka, Rashford, and Sancho have been the target of intense racial abuse to the extent that London’s Metropolitan Police are getting involved. The UK Football Policing Unit is even leading a hate crime investigation. The public’s feedback to the loss displays a rampant issue in sports: the intense division and hate produced by fans.


The principles that our society relentlessly preaches evaporate in sports culture as fans take advantage of the opportunity to express their frustration, prejudice, and hatred. Heckling is part of sports culture, and is usually ineffectual, but now fans are using heckling as a way to express their prejudice. 


Two Italian economists, interested in how the crowd influences players, found the only group that played better in the absence of crowds were Black players. They state that Black players, “who are most commonly targeted by racial harassment, experience a significant improvement in performance when supporters are no longer at the stadium.” Black players recieve more scrutiny and racist attacks, which is why they are affected. The backlash from the Championship is evidence of this.

Sabrina Artusa

Posted on July 20, 2021 02:34

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Source: FOX Sports

Soccer's European Championship postponed for 1 year because of coronavirus

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