Last Sunday was a sobering lesson in the art of sportsmanship. After reaching their first final in 55 years, football ultimately didn't came home for England. It was traumatic. It was miserable. And naturally, it was raining. But it wasn't our players who lacked a tougher chin as they sat, dejected, on Wembley's pitch with the deep, deep sadness of an entire nation on their shoulder. It was the fans.
Following three missed penalties that saw Italy clinch victory, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka were subject to a level of racism and abuse that had supposedly died in the Seventies. And yet right here, in 2021, it felt safe and free to run amok, unshackled by the inconsistencies of tech giants. Anti-vaccine fake news is, quite rightly, dealt with automatically. But unfettered racism towards three young Black athletes? No problem.
In a small win for humanity, the British public have largely adopted the Tetsudo formation. There was an outpouring of support for the three players. Real life action bolstered these. A Manchester mural to Rashford, erected in honour of the 23-year-old's work fighting child poverty, was defaced following England's loss. In no time, the graffiti was blocked by hundreds of messages that thanked the player for his work on and off the pitch. And it seems the support network has gone transatlantic.
At the season two premiere of Ted Lasso, everyone's favourite stoner dad next door Jason Sudeikis went for a sweatshirt that was a clear endorsement of our Three Lions. Upon its front, the names of Jadon, Marcus and Bukayo – and nothing else.
Since the election of Joe Biden, and the banning of Donald Trump from Twitter, displays of red carpet activism in Hollywood have dwindled. But our collective responsibility to stand up, in public, against racism in sport is as as urgent ever. It's still here. And Sudeikis, given the fact Ted Lasso is specifically about an American transplant in English football, no doubt has a wider understanding of the rot within the nation's game.
The sweatshirt takes its lead from A Little Life: the bestselling misery saga by American novelist Hanya Yanagihara. On the back of its runaway success, T-shirts began popping up that displayed the names of the four main characters – Jude, JB, Willem and Malcolm – in a punchy sans-serif typeface. All four, like England's three lions, face mountain high adversity in A Little Life. Their subsequent responses in the novel have seen all four – like England's three lions – championed ad infinitum.
Players that miss a penalty shouldn't need this groundswell of support. They shouldn't receive racist abuse, or death threats, or have their images defaced. This game is no longer a beautiful one. But until it regains some grace and composure, support for players like Sancho, Rashford and Saka is essential.
And though the aftermath of last Sunday was depressing for all sorts of reasons, a sense of achievement still exists in England's loss. It was the first time the squad had reached a final in 55 years. Only two goals were conceded throughout the entire tournament. Those players have much to feel proud about – and the majority of fans, whether in England or Hollywood or beyond, remain immensely proud.
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