Following England’s defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday, three members of Gen Z reflect on what the team and the tournament have meant to them.
‘It’s a harsh reality’
Although not the most avid football fan, Dylan Kawende, a 23-year-old student from North West London, showed great interest in England’s trip to the Euro 2020 final. of tribalism that soccer often fosters within the fans. I only really support England when it’s a big game, ”he said. “Sunday was a great game and it represented a great moment for our country, so of course I was very involved.”
For Kawende, who watched the final with her family, one of the factors that made this particular tournament feel so different from previous ones was the sense of hope and optimism that the England players had brought to both their family and the team. nation in general.
“I’d say all the players were exceptional in their own way, of course, but I really resonate with Sterling’s performance and his experience,” he said. “He came from Stonebridge in Brent, which is not too far from where I live, and the fact that he used his success to support his family is something that really resonates with me.”
Yet despite the current squad composition demonstrating the importance and strength of a diversity of talents, for Kawende, the racist abuse faced by black players in light of England’s defeat to Italy speaks of a “tough reality “of what it is to be black. person in England.
“I think it’s a brutal reality that many in our nation will only feel comfortable partnering with us when we meet their standards of what it means to be great,” said Kawende.
“The people who did not comply with the sanctions are black and much of the blame fell on them. I’m not sure there would have been so much reaction if the white footballers had failed. It’s a harsh reality. “
‘They have been incredible for standing up for what they believe in’
For 16-year-old Oliwia Charowska from Bromley, southeast London, watching England in the Euro 2020 final with her friend was a stressful but ultimately incredible experience. “We were so nervous, so excited, completely sweating and sitting on the edge of our seats,” Charowska said. “It was as if a hundred emotions were released in a jar at the same time.”
What made seeing the England team more exciting for Charowska was seeing how humble they were and how they seemed to represent ordinary people.
“We can all find something that resonates within the team and feel connected to them,” he said. “But for me, learning more about what players are like as people has been really inspiring. Players like Marcus Rashford have defended the problems they believe in. They have been amazing for standing up for what they believe in and creating change.
“When you have so much fame and money and all the other things that being a footballer entails, sometimes it’s very easy to get lost in all of that,” he continued. “While I think this team has been very humble about everything they have been given and using their platform to speak out on important issues like racism.”
And although there was disappointment that England failed to take the title home, Charowska is hopeful for the team’s future performance at the World Cup.
“Even though they didn’t win this time, they did win in a lot of different areas, and it shows how strong they are as a team,” he said. “I have high hopes that they can do it, and it is possible.”
‘As a person of color, it makes you feel more comfortable supporting the team’
For Ria Kakkad, a 24-year-old research analyst from Leicester, England, reaching the final was something that made her proud for several reasons.
“I was very proud of the players for reaching the final, but also of the incredible things they have been doing within our society,” she said.
“Some of the reactions to the loss were quite heartbreaking to watch, but at the same time there has been a lot of support for the young players. It’s been nice to see people rally against racism like that. “
But for Kakkad, the claim that the England team represents a more progressive and inclusive kind of nationalism was almost a double-edged sword.
“On the one hand, you have incredible players doing work for their communities, as well as standing up to racism by getting on their knees,” he said. “As a person of color, that makes you feel more comfortable supporting the team. However, much of the discussion and broader politics around kneeling, as well as the negative reactions from some England fans, is pretty daunting. “
However, for Kakkad, who is of Indian descent, for her to feel truly represented by English football, she would like to see more South Asians in the sport.
“I think there is a lack of representation of South Asians in soccer,” he says. “I think once we get to that point, I will feel more represented in football. Although we have recently had [Manisha Tailor] As the first person with South Asian heritage to coach, there is still a lot to do.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism