Sunday was supposed to be a celebration for the people of England. With the national team reaching a first senior international final in 55 years, the excitement was understandably at fever pitch. Considering it was going to be held at Wembley—the sport’s spiritual home in the country—it was amped up. The Euro final that Italy won was more than just a game of football. But the atavism and the darker side of human nature robbed it of its glory.
There is a thin line between excitement and breaking the law. What we saw on Sunday was the latter. Both before and during the match, there were scores of unsavoury images and videos of barricades being breached by hundreds of ticketless folks, showcasing the ugly side of the game. Fights broke out and ‘fans’ who had been drinking from very early in the morning even put flares in disturbing places. The consequences were endless: Some 19 officers were injured and fans who had bought legitimate tickets couldn’t watch the match in peace. Even Roberto Mancini’s son was on the receiving end as his seat was claimed by the mob. Families, genuinely threatened by scary scenes around them, left the stadium before the end of normal time. It was a harsh revisit to the old English habit of football hooliganism.
If this was an issue before and during the match, a more familiar problem reared its head after the match. Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka received all manner of racist abuse on their social media channels after they missed penalties. It’s a depressing reminder that racism is ever present in society. It’s also why the England players decided they would take a knee—a protest to fight for equality—before all their matches at the Euro 2020. That this gesture was booed by sections of the English crowd tells you everything you need to know. Things got so bad that skipper Harry Kane, through a Twitter post, disowned all those fans. “(…) if you abuse anyone on social media you’re not an @England fan and we don’t want you.” As it stands, England are the favourites to host the 2030 World Cup. But if these scenes repeat themselves, FIFA could well decide not to give them the right to host it.