A battle royal is about to start in England. Its a battle about the very nature of our existence and for some it is an existential threat to our way of life.
The battle will be seen on the football pitch and will be those who ‘take the knee’ and those who boo those who ‘take the knee’.
Yes, this battle will be as trivial as that, but as Winston Churchill once wrote, ‘Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war.’ this was then further enhanced by Harold Macmillan with the phrase “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war.”
So in Euro 2020 (or Euro 2021 depending on how you see the postponed tournament) the England team will be doing a Colin Kaepernick and take a knee to demonstrate that discrimination especially racial discrimination has no place in sport and football in particular.
This apparent noble cause has created a tsunami of vitriol amongst certain elements in politics and the media. Initially led by Donald Trump who famously attacked Colin Kaepernick for taking the knee during the playing of the US national anthem to highlight police brutality towards black people.
Trump said “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say: ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired,”!
This was the beginning of and led to what I called the Great Cultural War 2020 when the video of the killing of George Floyd by four policemen, led to the biggest anti-racist protest for years in the US and around the world.
In Britain youngsters being cooped up at home during the Covid-19 pandemic had enough and decided to take to the streets and voice their opinion which culminated in the trashing of a statue venerating a slave trader and the dumping of the said statue into the waters of Bristol.
The statue of Edward Colston had been a point of contention for years and The Society of Merchant Venturers which is a shadowy ‘charitable’ organisation and effectively control Bristol, would not acknowledge that a slave trader who abused 20+ million men, women and children in the most horrific way possible should not be praised.
However, this political act had come backs as many thought that destroying ‘public’ property and attacking historical symbols is wrong and unnerving because where does it end?
Therefore, the right wing saw their opportunity to really go to town and label all those who want to end racism as ‘Marxist cultural warriors’ who want to ‘cancel culture’ and turn the nation into ‘snowflakes’ ie empathetic but emotionally weak men and women.
These extreme conservative nationalist, embolden by Brexit and the decimation of the English left after the December 2019 election, got their ultimate target footballers who earn a load of money and are young. Marcus Rashford and Gareth Southgate like taking the knee are young or youngish and both seemingly do not have a high expansive academic career and like kicking a football at a high level.
These two characters are not ‘demigods’ like Ronaldo or Messi and Gareth Southgate was mercilessly slammed when he missed a vital penalty. Brilliant lets target these two guys and give them both barrels of hate and abuse.
However, both these men may not have gone to the best schools in the land. They may not be the absolute pinnacle of their profession but both have a sense of decency and humanity that people can see at an emotional and intellectual level that is not seen in most political, economic and cultural leaders today.
Marcus Rashford effectively forced the government to change their policy three times on poor school children getting free meals during a pandemic.
Gareth Southgate wrote an open letter that the England squad would not take anymore live and online abuse writing ”Why would you choose to insult somebody for something as ridiculous as the colour of their skin? Why?”
So, the lines are drawn and the fans will have their say.
The football team has decided to take the knee and they have been ridiculed by their own footballing professionals such as Wilfred Zaha and by their own elected MP’s such as Lee Anderson who states that he will boycott the England games because taking the knee against racism is divisive and supports Marxism which ultimately alienated “traditional supporters”.
Certain English fans have started to boo the taking of the knee and this looks like it will continue when England take on Croatia in the first game, as the England team pointedly will take the knee.
So what is the result of these conflicting ideas?
It is good that highlighting the problem of racism in football and society in general will be on a World stage.
A simple action can show a way of how things will happen. The English team giving the Nazi salute during the German national anthem at a 1938 football match in Berlin was a precursor to the tragedy of the Second World War and the industrialisation of genocide.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the black power salute during the 1968 Mexico Olympics to highlight the lack of human rights for black people in the US.
Both funny enough led to big outcomes which have been generally good for the future world.
First, World War Two led to decolonisation and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the greatest document in human history.
40 years later after the Tommie Smith and John Carlos demonstration (ably supported by the Australian silver medalist Peter Norman) a biracial President was elected and 52 years after that the US is at a crossroads of whether they are a democracy or a QAnon autocratic state? Hopefully rational thinking will win out and the US will reject the allure of fascism and theocracy.
So on Sunday 13th June, 2021 the ‘war’ begins. If England ultimately win the Euro Cup they will have done a great service to humanity. If they lose they will be attacked mercilessly by the old right wing media and the neo-nazi social media elements as being too woke for their own good. The odds are in favour of the ‘jingoist’ who hate anything progressive as non-racism, human rights, gender equality, the freedom to love who you want etc.
England tend to not do well in big tournaments so the boo boys and girls should have a party on the bonfire of footballing skills and goals.
If England win! Oh dear!