England racial abuse: Sheffield's 'Football Unites, Racism Divides' youth group says online hate 'wasn't hard to predict'

Sheffield community campaign group ‘Football Unites, Racism Divides’ is urging the public not to let themselves be “desensitized” to racial abuse in the game.

By Alastair Ulke
Monday, 12th July 2021, 4:21 pm

There has been widespread condemnation in the football community today after black players on the England team were subjected to racial abuse online following the Euro Final with Italy.

Three black players in particular – Bukayo Saka, aged 19, Marcus Rashford, 32, and Jadon Sancho, 21 – were targeted online over missing penalties in the decisive minutes of the historic game.

Now, the city’s sporting communities and figures have joined the nation in condemning the abuse.

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Players kneel down against racism before the UEFA EURO 2020 Group D football match between England and Scotland at Wembley Stadium in London on June 18, 2021. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Sheffield based youth charity ‘Football Unites, Racism Divides’ works to use the game to bring people together and combat hate.

England full back Kyle Walker, who grew up in Sharrow, used to play for the organisation in his youth.

Sadly, co-CEO Simon Hyacinth believes the online abuse in the wake of the match “was not hard to predict”.

“This hate is not new,” said Simon. “It feels weird to say but we’ve become desensitized.

“I’m an England supporter and my feelings when they went out was one of despair like all fans go through when their team loses a game.

“But my next thought was all the players who missed penalties were non-white players and there would be online racial abuse. It wasn’t hard to predict.

“I can’t imagine what that does psychologically for these black players who work their hardest but are only ever one bad performance away from significant racial abuse.

“It’s a small comfort to say it’s a minority of the fan community but it’s still there.”

The Prime Minister as well as Home Secretary Priti Patel also condemned the online abuse in a series of tweets.

Boris Johnson tweeted: “This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media.

“Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.”

However, the PM been criticized for failing to support players over their decision to take the knee before matches, a symbol of protest against racism.

Simon continued: “I don’t think there’s near enough action being taken by the Government and social media companies. It’s too easy for the minority to find a platform to voice this abuse while the Government has been slow to respond and follow through on legislation or education.

“Taking the knee keeps racism in people’s minds and that there’s a massive injustice towards people of colour, and it happens against this undercurrent of booing in the crowd.

“I feel like the England team represents what England should be about – a group of people from different backgrounds working together and breaking down barriers.”

Former Mayor of Sheffield Magid Magid also tweeted in support of England’s black players, writing: “The racist abuse I've seen targeted at these incredibly talented young players who helped take us to our first major tournament final in 55 years has been vile and disgusting.

“England wouldn't have achieved what it did without them. They deserve all our love and support.”

South Yorkshire Police has meanwhile called on the public to report online hate crime where they see it and said it was "disgusted" by the comments.In a statement on Facebook, the force said: "It's not the result any of us wanted, but we are still so proud of all the England players."We are disgusted by some of the racist comments we have seen on social media and stand together on calling these people out."If you see it, report it so action can be taken."If you have been a victim of hate crime, please report it to us we will listen."

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