England’s Heroes.


On Saturday, 6th July, England faced Switzerland in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Euros 2024. After a nail-biting match, the game came down to the high-stakes drama of penalties.

Penalties are always nerve-wracking, with fans across the nation holding their breath, knowing that just a few kicks could determine their team’s fate.

This time, the pressure was even more intense, as there was more at stake than just losing out on penalties, as the five penalty takers were Black players. The memory of the Euro 2020 finals still lingers, where Black players Saka, Sancho, and Rashford faced horrific racial abuse after missing their penalties.

With this history, the spotlight was firmly on Palmer (Afro-Kittitian descent on his father’s side of the family), Bellingham, Saka, Toney and Alexander-Arnold, adding an extra layer of tension and anticipation as they stepped up to the spot.

In particular, Bukayo Saka, who was only 19 during the 2020 Euros*, and the only one of the three from the previous Euros taking part this time. Despite the severe backlash he faced, Saka demonstrated remarkable bravery by stepping up once again and giving it his all. Many of us would struggle to recover from such intense scrutiny, but Saka’s resilience shone through.

You could sense that Black people across the UK and empathetic allies were holding their breath and rooting for him to score.

He did (release of bated breath) as did the other four players and along with Pickford’s save- all 5 Black penalty takers delivered for the nation, successfully scoring all their penalties and propelling England closer to that coveted finals spot.

Football is often hailed as the universal sport—the game that brings people together from all corners of the globe. Yet, it also has the power to divide us, as seen in the racist abuse during the last Euros. Clearly, we still have a long way to go before we are truly united.

It begs the question: why, when Black players fail, is their race singled out, making them feel like outsiders who don’t deserve to represent their country? Yet, when they succeed, they are celebrated purely as footballers, with their race fading into the background.

This article delves into the role of race in football, shining a light on why diversity in the sport should be celebrated and embraced.


Revisiting the Racism: Reflecting on the Last Euros


The last Euros marked a troubling chapter for English football, as the hidden racism directed at England players was thrust into the spotlight.


Making it to the finals against Italy, the decisive moment of whether “It’s coming home” rested on penalties.

In an unfortunate turn of events, the three unsuccessful penalty takers were Black, triggering waves of racial abuse that prompted investigations by both police and the Football Association.

The UK Football Policing Unit received 600 reports of racist comments sent to England’s Black players after the defeat and judged 207 to be criminal.


A YouGov survey revealed that 70% of people in the UK believe that the sport has a serious issue with race, marking a 17% increase from before the start of the Euros.


The impact was even more profound as distressingly the racism extended beyond the Black players to Black people across the UK. Reports emerged from pubs during the finals where Black individuals expressed feeling unsafe after the missed penalties, with their race unfairly blamed for England’s loss.

Over the next few days, Black people faced continuous abuse in the streets and workplaces, with racist remarks such as “your people made us lose” exacerbating division.

Rashford asserted that he didn’t believe white players would have received the same treatment from fans, suggesting that supporters “wouldn’t have noticed.”

This disparity in treatment is evident in the aftermath of England captain Harry Kane’s missed penalty against France in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which was a key moment contributing to England’s defeat. While Kane faced criticism from disappointed fans, the level of backlash was incomparable to what Black players experienced.

It is clear the issue is more than just missing a penalty.

It’s important to clarify that no player deserves online abuse, regardless of the circumstances. It is the stark contrast that highlights the profound race issues that permeate the sport.

All three players seemed to have been impacted when the new season began, Rashford opened up about the toll the abuse took on his mental health, revealing he lost his passion for the sport for a period afterward. His ability to eventually return to a sport that caused him such pain showcased his resilience, yet not everyone possesses such strength to recover.

Racism significantly impacts the mental well-being of ethnically diverse individuals, potentially deterring aspiring players from pursuing their dreams of representing England.


A Photo with Baggage: Who Was Blamed After the Iceland Loss?

Newspaper clipping with an image of Saka throwing a paper plane with the headline Plane Awful



On the eve of the 2024 Euros, England faced Iceland in a friendly match, suffering a demoralising 1-0 loss. Following the match, the media across the UK prominently featured an image of Saka throwing a paper plane, placing him at the centre of the defeat.

Many people voiced their discomfort online about the image, pointing out that Saka had only played for 25 minutes in the entire match (during which the Icelandic goal wasn’t even scored), yet he was unfairly singled out for scrutiny as its focal point.


Ian Wright took to X (formerly Twitter), stating, “We can all see what’s happening & who’s being set up to be the face of defeat. We are going to be gaslit with explanations & justifications, but those deciding who goes on the back pages know what they’re doing.”, suggesting that there was a more calculated agenda behind the media portrayal.

Tony Burnett, chief executive of Kick It Out, an organisation committed to eliminating discrimination in sport, strongly criticised the selection of images. He pointed out that any mistake made by Black players often singles them out for unfair scrutiny, urging media outlets to be mindful of the consequences of their choices. Burnett emphasised, “Words and pictures travel a long way, hitting harder than you might realise.”


It is crucial for media outlets to consider the broader implications of their coverage. The portrayal of athletes, especially those from ethnically diverse backgrounds, can shape public perception and influence attitudes. Moving forward, it is imperative that we uphold fairness and sensitivity in media representation, ensuring that all players are treated equitably and with respect, regardless of the outcome on the field.


From Past Challenges to Present Success: Recognising and Amplifying Black Footballers’ Achievements


Returning back to the present day, football fans are relishing in the victory of the last England match (defeating Switzerland in the Quarter Finals), with many letting out sighs of relief the pattern of racial abuse was evaded.

Now, in this period of positivity, it’s crucial to celebrate the successes of Black players, who too often have their achievements overshadowed by scrutiny of their shortcomings.


Saka holding player of the macth trophy in his England top with a beaming smile- posted on his X Account

Saka with player of the match trophy for a brilliant performance and scoring the equaliser as well as a penalty in the penalty shoot out



Football serves as a powerful platform to showcase the talents of players of all backgrounds, promoting meritocracy where skill prevails over ethnicity. Instances of racial abuse, however, hinder this progress, setting us back in our journey towards inclusivity and fairness in sports.

It’s crucial to recognise that this issue extends beyond football. The pressures faced by Black footballers mirror the additional challenges experienced by ethnically diverse individuals across all professions.

They are often perceived as Black first and footballers second, placing them under a dual burden to constantly prove themselves. This parallels the broader experience of ethnically diverse people who must often demonstrate exceptional performance to justify equal opportunities within dominant groups, knowing that failure could lead to exclusion.

Microaffirmations encompass words, actions, and behaviours that signal respect and value for someone as an individual. It’s crucial to affirm the experiences and accomplishments of ethnically diverse individuals, demonstrating solidarity for the additional challenges they have overcome to reach their current positions. A microaffirmation could be as small as a smile or a nod, yet it communicates to the individual that you respect and value them.

As we move forward in the Euros, let’s acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of these courageous Black players who knowingly put themselves at risk, yet consistently rise above adversity and perform under immense pressure. It takes strength and resilience to endure such challenges, and regardless of personal opinions on their performance, their determination deserves recognition and applause.

8 of the 11 players in the starting line up against Switzerland representing their country, England were ethnically diverse.

The England team comprises inspiring role models for all generations, pioneering progress and representing their country with pride. Let’s embrace unity, spread positivity, and uphold football as a unifying force for positive change.

Headed Ehnland without Migration Team line up with names of all ethnically /Black players crossed out to show the team if migration hadnt happend Produced by Migration Museum


As well as employees facing discrimination, often blamed, villified, picked on or excluded, when was the last time your organisation shone a positive light on your ethnically diverse colleagues

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 *Euros 2020 took place in 2021, delayed due to Covid

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