Many have been quick to condemn the section of Hungary supporters for their disgusting racist chanting at England’s stars, but we are in the dock as well
How quickly we forget.
How quickly we saddle up our high horses to gallop up to the moral high ground.
How speedily we rush to judgement on others when we have such a well-documented charge sheet ourselves.
The trouble is, we don’t do self-awareness in this country. To be fair to England manager Gareth Southgate, he does.
Too many others, however, have selective memories. Which is why the chorus of disapproval in the wake of the conduct of a section of Hungary’s fans has conveniently sidestepped the events at Wembley during the summer.
Yes, the Hungarians were a disgrace last night. Yet again. The picture of Raheem Sterling holding his head up high in the face of cups and bile raining down on him is symptomatic of the atmosphere we continually ask black players to go into and perform in 2021.
In no other industry are young (or older) black men asked to go to work well aware that any given day might be the day that they receive racist abuse they are not protected from.
Domestic, European and world football has a crisis around the issue that it simply cannot deal with.
We in England are part of that problem. Was our behaviour before and during the European Championship Finals any better?
Didn’t a section of our fans boo our England players taking the knee too? Didn’t they defend their right to do so, despite being begged not to by head coach Gareth Southgate, captain Harry Kane and a string of other players?
Pool via REUTERS)
Didn’t some of our fans break into our own national stadium?
Didn’t our fans actually wreck parts of our national stadium?
In 20 years of covering football I never believed I would witness the scenes – some of which I caught on video – that I saw on that Sunday night.
Then of course came the racist abuse directed by some of our so-called fans against our black players after their penalty misses in the final. The likes of Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford. It isn’t exclusive to Budapest, Bulgaria or Montenegro.
After the tournament, England defender Tyrone Mings rounded on Home Secretary Priti Patel who had defended the rights of those who booed the knee – then tried to show solidarity with Saka and Rashford. The hypocrisy was breathtaking and needed calling out.
Hungary Prime Minister Victor Orban might have form for defending the bad behaviour of his country’s fans – but didn’t Boris Johnson do the same with England’s fans ahead of the Euros?
In fact, didn’t Johnson welcome Orban to Downing Street in May of this year, despite widespread condemnation of the visit?
The knee was booed most weeks in the Premier League last season. The majority of the England crowd during the Euros was forced to turn up the volume to drown out those trying to do it during our group games and knockout ties at Wembley.
So if, quite rightly, we are calling on FIFA and UEFA to kick Hungary out of the major tournaments, should we not brace ourselves for similar sanctions?
What makes this country any different from the others where black players have to grin and bear it?
How come our memories are so short as to believe we have any credibility castigating countries in central and eastern Europe?
They deserve the book to be thrown at them. No doubt. FIFA will bottle it too. But we can only criticise them for being spineless if we are prepared to accept our own domestic authorities are as well.
When we start throwing clubs and countries out of tournaments and cup competitions for racism then we will start to deal with the problem.
When we start docking points in League football, then we will start to deal with the problem.
When we start looking in the mirror and addressing what we see, then we will start to deal with the problem. Because make no mistake, we are in the dock with Hungary.