Win You’re ‘us,’ Lose, You’re ‘Black’!

Yes I watched the entire Euro 2020, every single game of it. And it was time well spent. An enjoyable experience to say the least, with the goliaths of soccer left jelly-kneed at the hands soccer minnows. That’s what makes soccer rewarding to watch for me. I usually side the underdogs because it brings about that real tension and makes the watching all the more interesting, as soccer will not be the same old story again with the few customary giants always having the last laugh. Euro 2020 delivered in that respect.

The final was of course a different story. The English making it all way to this stage for the first time in more than half a century! The Italians making a well-deserved comeback to the soccer world after unconvincing performances over the past several years deserved its own headlines. They even missed out on the world cup and took away some of its colors with them!

The final! Of course, the actual game comes no closer to a real final than the barefooted scramble of the kids of my village. After watching the semifinal between Spain and Italy and other games in the tournament the final for me was an anticlimax to an otherwise a wonderful tournament.

But the pre-game and the post-game events were interesting in their own ways, Firstly hearing some commentators describe the two teams as the best two of the thirty-two teams one can’t help feeling the cramps. Root for your team, cheer them on to the very last second, go into some patriotic melodrama it’d be easy to say, “Well’ you can’t blame them; after all its their country playing.” But, calling them ‘the best two teams’ is overdoing it.

Then the incident that cast the heaviest shadow on it all, the racial abuse the three black players of the English team! That, ladies and gentlemen, isn’t about soccer. It isn’t about hat beautiful game! It’s about prejudice and a world which by the day seems to be getting nastier and nastier. Throughout the tournament

 the English players have been taking the knee to fight exactly what happened to three of their own! And these three happen to be some of the best young footballers with a whole world of opportunities spread out before them. Yes these getting is getting nastier when it comes to race relations.

When it comes to quality it failed drastically to impress. It never came close to what the final of such a prestigious tournament should be. Of course the Italians were fared better, but that is all there is to it. In the final analysis it is the post-game events that stole the headlines; the racist vilifying of three dark-skinned players because they missed the penalties. What is new about missing penalties? Players with the best set of legs have missed over and over again. That is the name of the game, either you miss or you lose!

These players gave all they have to lift the English team to this stage. And this is how are they paid back! Racist attacks because they’ve enabled the England team to be a force to be reckoned in world football? Yes, they missed penalties! So what’s the big deal? Many of the best players soccer knows having been missing penalties for ages! What’s the big deal this time around? No it wasn’t because they missed penalties; it was because they were black. Yes sir, when the team did well they were English citizens showered with avalanches of adjectives, the praise seemed to never stop because they were ‘us.’ But when they miss penalties all of a sudden they were ‘them’… black!

That’s how things seem to be rolling these days. When things are fine and the sun shines everyone clamors to be in the spotlight. But when the darker clouds come rolling in the ‘them’ and ‘us’ game starts. Just to wrap it all up almost all black players in the various national teams were some of the best and also the best in the teams! Some were even captions! Three cheers for them! The fact is black players have to work extra hard to make it in European soccer.

The Ethiopian Herald July 18/2021

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