I feel deeply upset for Marcus Rushford, Jadon Sancho, Bukayo Saka and the black community in light of the disgraceful aftermath of the Euro Finals.
The English football team managed to get to the finals; unlike some years, they played skilfully, they came together as a team and it felt like they did the best they could. It has meant an exciting and promising Euro Cup for England and some thrilling evenings. These players should have been applauded and celebrated for their performance and yet we witnessed the ugly responses targeted at three black players.
We often struggle managing difficult feelings and rather than being able to sit with them we jump to blaming. When we experience unpleasant emotions and find them too much, we want to discharge them in an attempt to take control of a situation that feels out of our control. To do this we find someone else to blame and often unconsciously target those who we perceive are different or “other”. Individuals who can cope with their own shortcomings are far less likely to do this. If you can face your own imperfections and limitations, you do not need to go looking for others to project the parts of you that you cannot manage. This projection of unwanted parts of ourselves finds a comfy home in those who are not in “our tribe” or those who are marginalised or minorities.
So perhaps it is not surprising that when people came up against that Sunday night of disappointment, they blamed and framed our black footballers. I was really surprised by this though after talking to others it made me realise that my colour blindness on the night is missing much. Others said that when Rushford, Sancho and Saka walked up to take their penalties, they worried that if our black players missed, they would suffer abuse. With this in mind, it must have played on the three men’s psyche as they walked up to take their penalties. I think we all need to take responsibility for this, the added pressure and horrendous backlash that our black footballers must have anticipated.
I want them to know that they are more than a missed penalty and that they should not carry the blame for others inability to deal with difficult feelings. We must do more to educate ourselves and our children to manage difficult emotions and prevent them jumping to blaming and othering. As Rushford states in his touching after match statement “I can take critique of my performance…my penalty was not good enough….but I will never apologise for who I am”.