SAN ANTONIO — Three English soccer players were subjected to online racial abuse after missing penalty kicks in the European Championship. 

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) European Championship featured a matchup between England and Italy on July 11 at Wembley Stadium. The match ended in a 1-1 draw after extra time, which forced the game into a penalty shootout.

Arsenal forward and second-youngest player on the England squad Bukayo Saka missed the final penalty that named Italy the best team in Europe. It was the third straight penalty missed from England in the shootout, after Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.

England players knelt before each match within the Euro 2020 Tournament to unite against racism and inequality. Sections of the English crowd booed in protest as the players knelt.

After England’s loss, the hate towards Saka, Rashford, and Sancho did not stop off the field. Racist abuse surfaced online towards the three players in response to their missed penalties.

“It’s sad to see because it causes a huge divide in our country,” said Calvin Kintu, 24-year-old criminal justice and education major at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU). “Seeing racist backlash on social media for the loss is just heartbreaking to see.”

The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) implemented regulations against racist abuse both from players and fans before the European Championship. For years FIFA has enforced anti-racism regulations, but they have grown stricter in recent years.

Kintu said that he thinks FIFA is handling it well by enforcing rules against racism.

One of the regulations, the three-step procedure, allows referees to first stop the match and request a public announcement asking for discriminatory actions to stop, to suspend the match until the behavior ceases, and lastly, they may abandon the match if the discrimination persists.

In contrast to the three men’s online abuse, English celebrities used social media to show their support. 

English actor, Tom Holland best known for his role as Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, shared a photo featuring the three players on his Instagram.

“The people abusing any England players are the only people who have let anyone down,” said Holland. “You are not my countrymen. These players deserve nothing but respect.”

The photo received over four million likes and over 21,000 comments applauding Holland’s perspective. 

“They’ve given us so much in such a difficult time, and they should be held up like kings, not kicked while they are down,” said Holland on Instagram. “To Saka, Rashford, and Sancho, you had the bravery to step up. You guys are the three lions, and all decent Englishman are proud of you and the whole team and staff, and we will support you again come to the World Cup.”

One of the young English players also decided to use social media to address the fight against racism. Saka shared an Instagram post on July 15 to speak out on the situation.

“There is no place for racism or hate of any kind in football or in any area of society,” said Saka. “To the majority of people coming together to call out the people sending these messages, by taking action and reporting these comments to the police and by driving out the hate by being kind to one another, we will win.”

The Arsenal player returned home to Arsenal’s London Colney training ground, where he was presented with thousands of messages of support plastered along the walls.

“How do I even say thank you for all of this?” said Saka.

To find out more about FIFA’s fight against racism, visit their website https://www.fifa.com/.


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