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Euro 2020

The football racists aren’t the victors

“The English didn’t just lose a penalty shootout on Sunday”, says the Swiss tabloid Blick. After a horrible night of fights, frights and racist slurs as England fell to Italy on penalties at Wembley, the Three Lions can “wave goodbye to a lot of respect from the rest of Europe” too. Bukayo Saka, 19, Jadon Sancho, 21, and Marcus Rashford, 23, were taunted with monkey emojis on social media within minutes of missing their penalties. By Monday morning, a mural of Rashford in Manchester had been vandalised with racist graffiti.

We disgraced ourselves all right, says Barney Ronay in The Guardian. A teenage intern “with a smartphone and a delete button” could have policed these players’ accounts on Sunday night, if Big Tech had felt like lifting a finger. But let’s not deflect from our own national shame. It was “a fundamentally misguided idea” to think Gareth Southgate’s diverse young team would heal society’s splits. Past England exits have left us angrily scapegoating spoilt players, or their Baden-Baden-based Wags. This time, after a happy run to the final on home turf, it is the country itself that should be wondering “what, exactly, is wrong with it”.

Let’s not blow this out of proportion, says The Spectator. The tweets are disgusting, “But do they really justify the national neurosis which they have set off?” According to research by Channel 4 News, 2,000 offensive tweets were targeted at the players. Deplorable, yes, but if Britain is down to a few thousand racists among 66 million people, that’s good news. It took just hours for residents of Rashford’s native Manchester to cover the defaced mural with messages of support. What’s truly scary is the riotous behaviour of ticketless fans at Wembley. But let’s not take lectures on racism from Europeans – certainly not from Sunday’s victors, Italy, “where black players are regularly subjected to monkey chants”.

It would certainly be a shame for the positives we took from this tournament to collapse “under the sheer weight of the culture war”, says Kemi Alemoru of Gal-dem. Our brilliant boys managed to garner support from people like me, who usually dislike both nationalism and the hypermasculinity of football’s fandom, so don’t watch. Hooligans still exist, but society is shifting away from them. By the time I looked at Saka’s Instagram page, it was flooded with a much stronger contingent of supporters backing the teenage winger. We can rage about vampiric social media giants and the “ghoulish” Priti Patel, but this is not a game for racists any more.

Don’t pay attention to a new Runnymede Trust report that says England is “systemically racist”, says Iain Martin in The Times. All that shows is how leftist campaigners are “too keen to mimic highly polarised America”. It’s quite different here. Our problem is that a small number of domestic hooligans, racist idiots and internet trolls, “some of them abroad”, get all the attention amplified by social media. England is becoming less racist, not more. “We should remember how far we’ve come.”

Leave the pitches to the players, Boris

Our England-strip-sporting PM should have noted football unity “does not necessarily produce unity of any other kind”, says Charles Moore in The Daily Telegraph. You quite often hear it said that Harold Wilson’s Labour Party swept to its landslide victory of 1966 on the back of the result. But this is quite untrue – the election was in March, the World Cup in July. Britain – unlike all the other participating nations – fields four teams, which doesn’t work in the prime minister of the UK’s favour. Three of the four don’t give a fig about England.