Racism wont ruin our golden Euros or mixed race future
Posted on the 15th Jul 2021 in the category sport

When the anger subsides. When the arguments about racism are forgotten and the career of Priti Patel is a distant memory, Euro 2021 will be remembered as a golden tournament.

England got to a major championship final for the first time in the colour television age and our country came together to cheer on a multi-coloured team in a multi-cultural country.

I watched the final in The Calthrope Arms, Handsworth, which is a shining beacon of what can happen when cultures mesh and something beautiful is created. The desi-pub phenomenon has saved countless boozers in the West Midlands with Sikh and Hindu landlords offering top notch Indian nosh with a pint removing the need for the late night stagger to a carpet wallpapered curry house.

I never understand any Englishman resenting a Commonwealth immigrant taking their birthright and living in Britain. Firstly, they've improved our culture and secondly, we kind of owe them for raping their countries to be the most powerful economy the world had ever seen, the after efffects we all still benefit from.

Every England game saw The Cally packed, by patrons of all ages, colours, races and religions, some women even came in the notoriously cock-heavy (pre-extension) pub. Look at the video of the penalty shoot out mayhem, the flailing limbs, joyous screams and gutteral howls of dismay were from a crowd who were mostly none white. 
That's the England I love, the inner-city mish mash of colours I grew up in.
Strongbow and a tandoori mixed grill, the best of British The best of British - Strongbow and a tandoori mixed grill

The knee-jerk racist minority of knobs who predectibly took to their keyboards to spew bile against those who fluffed their kicks are in the minority, the push back by the overwhelming decent majority proved this. And this being 2021 not everything is as it seems on the internet a lot of those racists were also Russian bots sewing the seeds of division in a democracy.
Social media has given everyone the chance to air their opinion and unsurprisingly there are a lot of stupid ignorant people ready to show the world just how daft they are. I see it everyday on my news feeds, people who I liked in real life, but knowing their innermost thoughts when something they are not clever enough to understand happens has made me think twice about associating them online or offline. And as for "our-eyes-only" Whatsapp groups, that's where true colours are shown despite everyone knowing I'm in a long-term mixed race relationship.
And its not all about race, the sheer abuse Gareth Southgate got throughout the tournament was sickening, he got us to the final. It reminds me of how Villa fans lose their minds when we lose a game and attack local manager Dean Smith as if he was a criminal.
But, Southgate lost us the final. Trying to defend for 45 minutes and sending one of youngest players to toil against wiley brilliant defenders was never going to work. The whole stadium would have erupted if he had brought on Grealish to torment a tiring team with a talent which even the ever-so-important stats back.
Then entering into extra-time knowing the Italians had a keeper with a 30% penalty save ratio, with the once-in-a-generation backing of a home crowd in a major final, and not to attack with our insanely talented players is unforgivable. If England were managed by Roberto Mancini we would have won, but we aren't and we lost.
The first World Cup game I remember properly was the Mexico 1986 quarter final between France and Brazil. After 70 minutes it was 1-1 and the legendary Zico was brought off the bench, he had not kicked the ball when Brazil was awarded a penalty, previous penalty taker Socrates was brushed aside so Pele's heir could score, but he missed. 
French keeper Bats, who saved from Russian player Ratz in the previous Euros, palmed the penalty away and went on to be the hero of the subsequent shoot out which saw Platini and co qualify for the semi-final where West Germany and certain arse-first goalkeeper lay in waitWhy am I bringing up Zico? Because it has been footballing common sense ever since no matter how good the player is they need to have a feel of the match, the ball, the atmoshphere and the pitch before taking a penalty. So bringing two players on to take penalties just before a shoot-out will not work.
However, Zico and football know-how are not things which factor into statistics. Gareth and his army of technocrats have number crunched penalties, they would have picked the penalty takers on this basis. 
Before the tournament one of the statmasters let it be known the data had shown players who wait more than five seconds after the whistle blows score more than those who 'rush' their kick. So the penalty takers would have been picked on data, not on common sense like not allowing a 19-year-old to take the deciding kick after he'd not had a sniff since coming on. 
We will never have a better chance to win anything again, the Qatar World Cup will be like playing in a boiling pan of piss and our players will wilt in the heat even if the organisers create the magical rainclouds they promised the bent FIFA officials who voted for their bent bid.
But getting to the final was wonderful. This was a much bigger achievement than Euro 96, whose team of household names only had four games before getting knocked out. Watch the Scotland and Spain game again and see how bad we were. But this Euro 2021 team played seven games, and we undefeated in 90 minutes, letting in only two goals. The reason why the whole country ground to a halt and 30m watched on TV because that's what happens when you go deep in competitions, the team takes the whole country with them and the hype after winning a semi-final rightly became reality.
I've always loved covering World Cups and European Championships as a local news journalist. Whether it be convincing a charity shop owner in Halesowen to dress her maniquins up in England colours or getting a butcher in Cradley to come up with Three Lions Faggots its the bonkers spin-offs and tall tournament tales I love.
During the last World Cup at the Metro I reported my mate Sophie's cheeky fundraising bid to get her to the semi-final, she got absolute pelters in the comments sections as a Muslim single mother trying to see her heroes - https://metro.co.uk/2018/07/02/single-mum-is-trying-to-crowdfund-trip-to-watch-the-world-cup-after-losing-500-1-bet-7676218/. Nothing made me happier on Sunday was seeing her face beaming on a Wembley seat for the final. 
Legendary antics by Villa lionesss Sophie 

This tournament I was doing a bit of PR for my old mate T8PES and his England single This Is Football and it seems a long time ago when we turned up to the Barton's Arms unannounced for a photo shoot before a football was even kicked. This Is Football gave me a tiny stake in the entire fandango and getting him in the Sun, Mirror, Star, Brum Mail etc for his take on fake England kits and his video uncannily captured what millions of us experienced on Sunday as we saw England in our first major final our lifetime. 
The final of course is, by definition, the end. Normally the end for England has come well before the end of the actual tournament. I've never let England's performance in tournaments effect my enjoyment of them. USA 1994 remains one of my favourite World Cups because I watched every game with my mates in the Little Crown, Perry Barr.  I always love the first two weeks, three games a day, all those fears and hopes bound up in nations' fortunes which can be scuppered by an own goal or elevated to ecstasy by journeyman's bicycle kick. 

What this Euro run has given us all is a chance to meet up, an excuse to ring a brother after too long, an opportunity to see friends when evil fridge calendars makes it an impossibility to get together, and when new girlfriends or boyfriends could be introduced to old friends. Seven times we congregated around screens with people we cared about.

After so long being locked away from each other this tournament has been wonderful, the return of fans for games has shown their importance to sport, broadcasts from empty stadiums share the sadness of the situation so seeing so many fans' limbs going in all directions and getting entwined with maskless strangers like Covid never existed was bostin to witness.
For a beautiful few days between the semi-final win and the last penalty kick the country seemed to come together to support our young team, who unlike their predesessors had bothered to bond themselves, who come from all parts of the nation, are black, white and mixed race and were unburdened by the failures of the 1990s and not suffocated by the ghost of 1966.

This team actually give a shit about something besides bedding beauties or grannies. Rashford, aged 23, seems to be the UK's only effectual opposition and feeds countless kids, Henderson coralled Premiership captains to help the NHS, Sterling stood tall under a barrage of blatant racism and the list goes on, any Villa fan will have plenty of stories of how Jack Grealish has gone out his way to help stricken fans. 
A footbaling tragedy quickly became a political football. And it took Villa's Tyrone Mings to brilliantly puncture it by calling out Priti Patel's crocodile tears over racism by pointing out her refusal to condemn fans booing our players taking a knee for racial equality, not for defunding the police or a bastadised Marxist version of the gesture made famous by Martin Luther King.
By Wednesday morning Conservative MPs were urging their colleagues  to rethink their condemnation of players taking the knee as they were very much on the wrong side of the argument.
Looking around the Calthorpe Arms during the penalty shoot out and seeing the sheer unadulterated support for England by so many none white supporters felt totally right, and new. If we had won there would have been a conga around the car park and god knows when the party would have finished.  As it was there was a cascade of keyboard strokes and monkey emojis from elsewhere abusing the three players who missed their kicks.

But the best thing is, the racists are on the wrong side of history, their country is not going to get whiter, it will become more beiger, and they will become angrier, there will never be an all white England footballing team again, it seems unthinkable even now. 
For some it will take the love for a brown grandchild to get their minds in the 21st Century but for others let them fester in their own anger, and both laugh and pity them in equal measure. We might have lost the match but we'll win the war, just ask that mixed race family enjoying a mixed grill at the Calthorpe Arms!



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