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South Manchester’s Three Lions, England Football and Responding to Racism

Last night was a real test. Over 23.6 million viewers tuned in to watch an agonising bout of football drama, but we made it through....

Last night was a real test. Over 23.6 million viewers tuned in to watch an agonising bout of football drama, but we made it through. The team kept their heads, they showed resilience and a real strength of character. We’re through to the quarter-finals and for now at least, football is still coming home.

Our success so far is a testament to the unity on show in the team. You can feel it. There are no egos or squabbles. Those guys get along. Obviously, we want to give a special shout-out to Danny Welbeck, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, three lads from south Manchester who have put in the work (and in Lingard’s case, a screamer in the back of the net) to get us one step closer to glory. But ultimately, it’s down to all of them; down to the teamwork and the chemistry, made all the more sweet by the fact England is one of the most racially diverse squads at the tournament – a true reflection of the nation as a whole, and a slap-in-the-face to anyone who thinks the England team should look a certain way.

In fact, it’s made even sweeter given the worries that were put forward prior to the tournament. In the run-up to the World Cup, Gareth Southgate implemented an action plan on dealing with racism which, in the stands of Russian stadiums (and beyond), has been a grave problem in the last few years. Pippa Grange, a Football Association psychologist, has travelled with the team to offer support should such an incident arise. Fortunately, no such incident has occurred.

We hope it stays like this. Just like society, racism has no place in football. Despite the pre-tournament fears, the World Cup has so far provided a rolling stream of good vibes; of different nations and races bonding over their love for the game, of Mexicans crowd-surfing Koreans in the middle of the Red Square, and so on…

Even so, racism is a reality that many of us face. While Russia’s football stadiums have played host to more recent examples of racist abuse, it’s certainly not the only country where it takes place. In England, organisations like Kick It Out, as well as cultural shifts, have seen racism fade from professional football grounds. But professional football represents a tiny fraction of the game in the UK. Most of us play it in parks, at school, with friends, free from the scrutiny of governing bodies and the threat of sanctions. These are the spaces where racism in the game can still rear its ugly head.

So what can you do if you experience it?

If you are responding to any situation like this, remaining calm and rational is a must. If you feel in any danger, remove yourself from the situation straight away and find a safe space. There are a bunch of people – the police, teachers, parents or the staff here at Hideaway – who will immediately and swiftly assist you. We all know that discrimination is simply not acceptable in our society, so don’t let it slide – it’s time to go through the right channels, they can and will administer a fitting punishment.

In a football match, for example, this means informing the referee and the league as a whole. This route will likely get the perpetrator sent off or even banned from the competition – we should imagine for a very long time. Away from the pitch, it’s best to inform someone you trust; again, it can be a teacher, parent or someone at Hideaway. They’ll get it sorted. It’s the same for the England players: According to their pre-World Cup training, any racism experienced on the pitch will be reported to the ref, it will eventually be investigated by FIFA officials. They don’t mess around.

Ultimately, it’s down to you to make the right decision, a moment where it’s vital to consider how it will affect you in the long term. But for now, let’s bask in the England team’s brilliance for as long as it may last. Supporting them isn’t restricted by faith, ethnicity, age, politics or any of the other factors that so frequently divide us. Instead, the England team is a fine example of how the nation succeeds when it pulls together in the name of a common goal, no matter our differences.

Something to emulate, if you ask us.

For more advice on tackling racism in football, head to Kick It Out.

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