The Importance of Players like Saka, Rashford, and Sancho

The story of hope throughout the 2020 European Football Championship? The England squad. Loaded with talent and having around 50% of the team come from immigrant families, England’s 2020 team was filled with diversity and success and gave an entire country hope. Reaching the final for the first time, the city was on the cusp of making history, but by the end of the tournament, England was only met with demise. The game was to be decided upon penalties and after England failed to convert three straight shots, Italy went on to win the tournament. Filled with the obvious heartbreak after losing, there was an absurd amount of racist abuse aimed directly at three of England’s rising stars, the same three that missed the penalties, and the same three that happened to be players of color.

Jadon Sancho (21) currently plays with Manchester United (pending medical) and was born on March 25, 2000, in Camberwell, London. His parents are from Trinidad and Tobago. Sancho is expected to be one of England’s rising stars.

Marcus Rashford (23) currently plays with Manchester United as well and was born on October 31, 1997. Rashford’s grandmother was born on the island of Saint Kitts in the West Indies. In 2020, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rashford donated $20 million to help raise funds to provide food for school children in Manchester who were on free lunch and would be affected by the goverments cuts. Rashford, who experienced poverty himself as a child, went head to head with the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who threatened to cut spending towards free school lunches and refused to extend free school meals in England throughout the holiday season. After continuous pressure from Rashford, Johnson finally agreed to the extension and now plans to spend over $500 million to combat child poverty. 

Bukayo Saka (19) currently plays with Arsenal and was born on September 5, 2001. His parents are both from Nigeria. Saka became the youngest player for England’s National Team to start a match at the semi-final stage. His biggest moment however came in the final. When no one else stepped up to take the final penalty in order to keep England alive, Saka stepped up. At just 19 he had the weight of an entire country on his shoulders.

These three players, who are just as good on the field as they are off, missed their shots, which meant Italy would be crowned champions. After the loss, the three players received racist tweets and comments on their social media accounts. A mural honoring Rashford in Withington, Manchester was even vandalized until residents covered up the defaced mural with positive messages in heart-shaped notes. The England Football Association, and many other clubs have all condemned the racist abuse these three players are experiencing. 

It is 2021 and the fact that racism is so prominent in today’s society is astonishing. Gary Neville, who played for England said “the fact of the matter is, there is an issue obviously in football, there is an issue in society where we feel it’s acceptable basically to criticize players for sporting actions because of the color of their skin” (Neville). Racism has no place in football and no place in sport, but yet here it is, alive and well, and this isn’t the first time players of color have received racist abuse online and on the field. In 2019 Bulgarian fans said racist chants towards the players. In April 2021 many players boycotted social media for three days in response to the online abuse. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the abuse shown after the final “appalling” but in the past had refused to condemn fans for booing players who kneeled before games. 

These three young men are impressive on the field, but their actions off of it is what makes them truly remarkable human beings.

Sancho is one of England’s fastest rising stars and is poised to make an impact for years to come.

Saka was nominated for the Men’s PFA Player of the Year award and led his country to the finals at the age of only 19.

Rashford forced the British government to supply food to children during the pandemic and raised millions of dollars to help school children in need.

There have been thousands of racist comments left under their social media accounts. Tyrone Mings, who is also on the National team called out the British government, saying that they “don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning…then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens” (Mings).

This team made history, and gave hope and joy to their people, but the fact that that can all be washed away due to someone’s skin color is disgusting. We as sports fans and we as human beings, have to do better.

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