The 2020 UEFA European Football Championship was played from 11th June 2021 to 11th July 2021 by 24 teams across the European continent. The Italian football team emerged as winners after defeating England at the Wembley Stadium and took the cup home for the second time, their first being in 1968.
The final match between England and Italy had its fair share of excitement, thrill, suspense and heart-racing moments as it came down to the penalty kicks to determine the Euros champion.
But along with all of this also came controversy, fouls, yellow cards, disgraceful and downright violent behaviour from a lot of the English fans, post-loss riots, and highly disappointing racial discrimination against the three players who each failed to score a penalty for England.
Source – My London News
Since the beginning of the championship, England has had a strong supporter base not only from its home crowd but also internationally. People from all over the world poured in their support for the team. But, some people did not belong to the participating countries, and simply supported a particular team because it was playing against England. Even for the finals, a large number of people supported Italy despite having no personal connection with either the country or the team simply because they did not want England to win.
What caused so much detestation towards the English football team?
First and foremost, it is important to remember that football is a game where adrenaline levels of everyone participating- players or fans, are high, tempers are lost, fouls are committed, players get injured, appeals (at times false) are made, and emotions are in a frenzy. It is a sport that is close to the hearts of millions of people all over the world, and sometimes fans tend to take losses personally.
When it comes to the English, especially the English football fans, they have a reputation that supersedes them- that of being heavy alcohol consumers, short-tempered, arrogant and racist.
What followed after the loss of England to Italy in the finals was a series of violent protests at various public gatherings in London: fans without tickets storming inside Wembley creating a stampede-like situation which injured several people, chairs and beer bottles being broken and tossed everywhere, English fans physically assaulting Italian fans, burning Italian flags, verbally abusing their players, throwing an Italian supporter into the Thames, and racially abusing three of their players of colour who each failed to score a penalty- Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho.
Source – Free Press Journal
This only gave people who disliked the English football team more reason to add to their hate.
But what cause created this dislike within them in the first place?
All through the championship, the English fans have been known to be hostile towards their opposition. There have been instances that support this, like when England beat Germany 2-0, a young girl’s crying face was shown on the big screen which caused the English fans to break into a loud cheer as if mocking her and the team she supported, or when a section of the English fans mocked the German, Danish and Scottish national anthems, or when a green laser was pointed at the Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel right before a penalty kick which was a deciding moment for both teams concerning their advancement to the final.
The English team was heavily penalized for this. There were also a lot of controversies that surrounded the foul that led to this penalty kick in the first place. It was given in the 102nd minute when Raheem Sterling weaved his way into the box and two Danish defenders came close to him and fell. As Sterling was running into the box, he ran past a second ball that had already been thrown onto the pitch. Sterling was challenged by Joakim Mæhle and Mathias Jensen, but replays showed that Sterling had already fallen before any contact was made with the other 2 players, making some believe that he dived to score a penalty.
A former Arsenal manager who was working as a pundit for beIN said that he thought that it was not a penalty, and José Mourinho too believed the same.
England, no doubt, played well in that match vs Denmark and could have won the match based on pure merit without needing that penalty kick.
Apart from fans’ hostility towards the opposition, there are a few more factors that have led people to dislike the English team.
When England started using its slogan for the 2020 Euro Cup, “It’s Coming Home,” a lot of people worldwide saw it as cocky and arrogant, and from thereon the English team came off as an overconfident unit. Of course, how one perceives a statement is purely subjective, but this view was held by a lot of people across the world, who believed that the overuse of this slogan had started to get annoying.
Source – foxsports.com.au
Another factor could also be the consumption of media. During the championship, the highest viewership was received by BBC UK and Sky Sports, UK. So much content singing praises for the English team could have caused people’s distaste for the English team to only rise.
A very trivial factor could have also been that the championship spectators from a few of the non-participating countries simply chose not to support England as at one point in history, their countries were colonized and oppressed by the British. This was at least the rationale of a lot of middle-aged Indian followers of the championship, who did not have a country to support from the beginning but chose to support whoever played against England.
England also had the advantage of playing most matches at home, at Wembley in front of their home crowd, which plays a great role in the psychology of players and how they perform during the match.While every Italian game was fun to watch for a football fan, after a certain point it felt that the English team were less aggressive and mostly chose to play defensive. This was also seen in their final against Italy when they scored a goal in the 4th minute and then switched to playing defensive, which made watching them a little uninteresting.
Sky reporter Mark Austin summed it all up in his tweet: “Disgusting racial abuse of England players, yobs storming into Wembley and Leicester Square trashed… why would football want to come home to this anyway?”
Written By- Snehi Shah
Edited By- Isha Mehrotra