Regardless of whether you are into football or not, if you live in the UK it is impossible that you could have missed the events of the Euro cup final against England and Italy at the weekend, and the events that have followed it.
The entire tournament has been dogged by the England team being booed by their own fans, and even their own government for taking the knee against racist abuse. Marcus Rashford was constantly accused of “playing politics” because apparently that is what trying to make sure kids don’t go hungry these days is. We saw poisonous soundbites of how they should “stick to scoring goals” and “keeping politics out of football,” as if football could be anything but intensely political.
Priti Patel talked of the fans “right” to boo England for what she referred to as gesture politics, refusing to say whether she herself would boo them. Boris Johnson made similar remarks adding disingenuously that he “fully respects the right of those who choose to peacefully protest” at the exact time he was drawing up legislation to make sure that peacefully protesting can come with a prison sentence.
Said fans, media outlets and politicians sharp started changing their tune when it became clear the team were actually looking at a chance of getting to the final, suddenly declaring about ‘how proud’ they were of “their” team and appropriating the spontaneous and beautiful excitement around it to drum up nationalistic rhetoric. But within seconds of the last missed penalty their true colours began to show once more, with tweets and comments on instagram threatening and abusing black players in ways that even the wilfully ignorant could no longer ignore.
Meanwhile, before the game and after, fighting amongst large groups of fans broke out both in and around the stadium, lapped up of course by the press. Media outlets love footage of a good scrap, even better when its mingled with naked England supporters bouncing around with their cock out and a lit flare up their arse. They love people being stamped on and streets twinkling like the first frost with the broken glass of Leicester Square. Newspaper cartoonists satirize it, drawing pictures of overweight men with protruding foreheads. The journalists and MP’s begin to clutch their pearls, using words like ‘yobs’, ‘thugs’ and ‘disgusting’ and certainly in some cases those words might fit very well.
The outraged public will demand something is done about it, and true to form those same politicians, the ones who for months have been dropping lit cigarette ends in the dry grasses of a disenchanted island, will give us blood. In the next few weeks we’ll see photo releases and police appeals asking for the identities of those fighting in the streets, calls for stadium bans and court dates issuing dramatic sentences akin to those of the summer riots of 2011.
But those who have made careers out of committing violent atrocities on our communities for decades will carry on without consequence. More than that, anyone displaying the slightest bit of emotion when calling them out are labelled criminals and extremists. It’s fine to deport people back to dangerous places they don’t remember, or have never lived in. To allow children to drown in sinking boats. To order air strikes on people who have done fuck all to us. To murder tower blocks of working class residents by ignoring dozens of warnings and requests for repair.
You can starve the disabled to death with benefit sanctions as long as you do it with a suit and a smirk. You can use racial slurs that Enoch Powell would have twitched at as long as you have a Be Kind banner in your profile picture.
You can do all of that, but we get an assortment of social media bans, public order offences or harassment convictions if we call you a cunt for doing so.
This is the violence of civility and we are dying from it every day. It is the toxic smog we are forced to breathe in, but we are not allowed to try and turn off the taps. The political gaslighting that demands that you only complain about the knife at your throat in the “right way,” and the right way is something they dictate where they can move the goalposts constantly so that there never is a right way, for you.
No matter how you felt about the smashed windows, the people forcing their way through the barriers or the bloke in the stadium being caught on camera hoying a key of ching up his nose, we cannot say that they were the conjurers of the racist abuse we have seen of black players and citizens. Which will be proven when those people are inevitably offered up as the sacrificial goats and racism continues, as ever, to be propagated by policy and policing, cheered on by an emboldened right wing and utterly uncontested by the parliamentary opposition.
We want accountability at its source and will not have rules of etiquette imposed on our rage at the violence we receive every day. Jailing the dogs fighting in the pit and not the ringleaders clutching their blood spattered money and their ecstatic spectators will do nothing.