After months of waiting, the World Cup is here. As I am sure many of you were as well, I was in the pub for about midday for England’s opening game win against Iran. What an amazing feeling: it’s coming home! There is nothing like the World Cup. It is the best exhibition of sport in the world, bringing normal people from all over the globe together in unity following their country playing the beautiful game for four weeks of exhilarating highs and devastating lows. I know many of you can remember every one of the emotions you felt during the Euros in the summer of 2021. However, there has been a negative twist to these tournaments off the pitch, as Jack Perceval explains.
With all the excitement that comes around during this global event comes some disappointing actions which can ruin the fun which we all can be a part of. In mentioning the Euros, I am sure that one of the most prominent things remembered by many of us is the appalling racism which was prevalent in the aftermath of England’s loss in the finals against Italy.
I remember sitting in my mate’s front room watching the penalty shootout and the punditry after the game had finished, looking through Twitter and seeing some of the gross racism that was directed towards Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, and Jadon Sancho after they missed their penalties to lose the game in emotional fashion. This was a disgusting thing to see, with people saying things like “you let the country down”, on top of racist comments made in their tweets or Instagram posts.
It is almost ironic how the same people saying “you let the country down” to England’s bright future are the ones whose behaviour actually let the country down
On a day when we did as well in an international tournament as we have for over half a century, fans all over the country ruined what should have been a historical and unifying achievement for English people everywhere. It is almost ironic how the same people saying “you let the country down” to England’s bright future are the ones whose behaviour actually let the country down.
With that said, as a country of supporters following a nation’s team which represents many different ethnicities, and in an international tournament with representatives from every corner of the planet, fans simply cannot behave in the same way we did in the Euros. Unfortunately, in the pub on Monday, I heard plenty of insensitive comments coming from our fans.
We must help to set a precedent of kicking racism out of football, and to be sensitive to help to unify our planet through the beautiful game
Whether that be jokes related to Saka or Rashford “letting the country down”, evoking memories of racism from the Euros, or jokes about the players from Iran, there was plenty of disgraceful behaviour. We, as a fanbase, must be more inclusive and caring for the players representing us, and with players our boys are competing against. We must help to set a precedent of kicking racism out of football, and to be sensitive to help to unify our planet through the beautiful game.
How can we say we love football and that it’s the beautiful game if we allow ugly hatred to prevail during this global display of football? This idea is even more important when we discuss one of the most important themes of the World Cup so far: protest. There has been plenty of commentary around the controversiality of Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup, with Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws being at the forefront of the discussion right now.
The punishment for male homosexuality in Qatar is up to seven years and a fine if someone is found guilty of “inducing or seducing a male or a female in any way to commit illegal or immoral actions” .
There has been lots of conversation about this with discussions held by seven European national teams about the possibility of wearing a ‘One Love’ armband in protest against Qatari anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Despite this, FIFA warned teams that a punishment of automatic yellow cards for players wearing them (if a player accumulates multiple yellow cards, they would be banned for a game).
This World Cup has provided the audience with a looking glass into the injustices of another country
Regardless, the BBC’s Alex Scott bravely wore this armband in pre-match commentary despite the national team’s u-turn on this. The importance of inclusivity at the World Cup and beyond can never be understated, and this World Cup has provided the audience with a looking glass into the injustices of another country.
However, Scott’s unwavering protest as a pundit – despite FIFA’s stance on players wearing the armband acting as enough of a deterrent for them not to be worn – is an exemplary display of solidarity and shows the cooperation that we need to inspire real change anywhere.
Although FIFA has urged teams to “focus on football”, you just can’t keep protest away from this international stage. Before their opening game against England on Monday, the Iranian national team refused to sing their national anthem in protest against their political regime.
Protests have swept Iran after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died because of reported police brutality, after she was arrested for violating rules which required women to cover their hair with a hijab or headscarf. It takes a lot of bravery to protest in any circumstance, let alone on the huge stage of football. This has to inspire more strength to broadcast these issues of injustice to a global audience, highlighting abuses of power and cruel discrimination in places all over the world.
They are encouraging everyone to speak up; there are issues which are bigger than football
While I am sure this won’t be the last of the impressive bravery shown by Alex Scott and by the Iranian nationals, their actions should act to encourage and inspire others to act. They know that protest doesn’t need permission. They know they need to speak for those without a voice. They are encouraging everyone to speak up; there are issues which are bigger than football.
The World Cup is special. The drama, intrigue, and upset that accompanies the World Cup is unparalleled in any other sporting event. It’s a special occasion, and the players know it. Every World Cup brings moments that stop time and take the breath away, and the magic of the World Cup shouldn’t get ruined by ignorance. Speak up to these injustices and fight for what is right.
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