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by Ryan Clement

Every now and then I would come across an article, which I read at speed of which I get the gist and move on. After all, I practically read for a living. Then it takes a word or phrase to prick the consciousness to the point of, to ignore it would be unhealthy because of the level of examination it demands, commands and or requires.

Until now, I have kept out of the public debate about the “blacklash” against the English footballers who missed their penalties in the final of the Euros against Italy.

I hadn’t contributed because there were already excellent contributions that either reflected what I thought and would say or were more eloquent than I could have expressed myself and with which, again, I agreed.

Firstly, it surprised me how many people shared my immediate instinct that the reaction to those three players not scoring their respective penalties were going to have far wider implications than the game, the penalties themselves or the result. It seemed inevitable based on perception.

Secondly, and this is what struck a chord that led me to write this short piece, was an article I read recently that said that black people are accepted as long as they are winning. Like I said, I read many things at speed and move on and, true to form, did so on this occasion. However, untrue to form, I came back with two questions. First, accepted by whom? Second, is winning the same as having won? I tackled these in order.

On the first question, I sincerely and genuinely had, and have, no idea. Whom do I approach to thrash it out? Exchange ideas? Understand where that person is coming from? Debate the issues or our differences? In other words, to whom do I make my case for acceptance? I drew a blank on everything.

Watching the Euros as I did, I could not help but notice the multiracial composition of the England fans, which, rightly, ought to be the case because supporting a country or ‘your’ country is not based on ‘race.’ Of course, if I am correct then this raises another obvious question, how did ‘race’ come into this?

What gives someone the belief that they have the authority or the position to abuse these England and English players based on their socially constructed ‘race’? Part of the answer is in the question, I believe. In my view, Perceived authority and Position are key. There is a perceived licence to behave this way without fear of any significant repercussions that would move society to a place of respect and dignity for all. For example, it would be inconceivable that supporters of England and English supporters would have racially abused three white players had they missed their penalties.

It is so implausible a thought that, thinking of the question alone is laughable if it were not on a serious point. And, let’s face it, we have the samples to test my point.

Remember, we have had it drummed into us that we are not good at penalties on the international stage. Yet, I challenge anyone to find evidence of racial abuse aimed towards those ‘heroes’ of the past who adorned the England shirt and stepped up bravely to take a penalty for their country and missed. You will struggle. So, back to the point under examination.

I can only conclude that if I cannot go to a single person and ask for acceptance, we must be dealing with an invisible force with its unwritten code that leads one to ‘believe’ that they have the power, authority or licence to act the way in which they do. In other words, one can embark on such a campaign, knowing that the recipient, even if minded to “retaliate” could and would never have the same mass impact or effect let alone power, authority or licence.

I accept that I cannot drop in the word ‘licence’ without seeking to define what I mean by that.

The licence I am referring to is that granted by some various institutions in which one would feel confident to express themselves in such a way and with the knowledge that it would either have a desired effect or that the victim cannot respond to such a degree that makes the attacker feel as the victim does.

If I am wrong then I invite Dr Sewell and friends to put me right with specific reference to what we have witnessed recently.

Now to my second issue. I form the view that winning is not the same as having won. To me, “winning” is fluid. You may have been winning but you lost. After all, England was winning against Italy after only 2 minutes, which would have meant that the players in question (whether they were all on the pitch at the material time or not) were accepted but England lost after 120 minutes, so that acceptance was taken away (as opposed to withdrawn).

My point is, even if we – yes, “we” I was born in Chiswick and schooled in Fulham – had won the Euros on penalties with all the said three scoring but, say, lose the World Cup with all three missing, the reaction would be precisely the same.

The ‘acceptance’ at the Euros would be taken away at a subsequent defeat. This is somewhat disturbing on many levels.

Firstly, if you excuse the pun on a very serious note, there is always a moving goal post.

Secondly, which touches partly on the first, who is it that decides the rules? If you can know if you are winning then surely you ought to know when you have won. But the reality is, there appears to be unwritten but changeable rules that those who are potentially most adversely affected by the changes appear not to have a say in that constitution.

In that case, the cards are continually stacked against them. They can never win in the eyes of some.

I had planned to leave the above there. Say my piece and leave but I feel compelled to say more. It seems to me, as I cannot go to an individual and reason with that person to any meaningful degree, it would be wise to participate constructively in the institutions that allow this negativity to flourish and to have a seat at the table for a fairer, just and respectable society.

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