The Black Lives Matter movement is circulating across the footballing world, with players such as Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling using their influence to raise awareness of racism that they face on and off the pitch. From racist chants from fans to banana peels being thrown at Arsenal captain Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang, the football world can be rife with racially-motivated discrimination. But how many players that feature in the English squad are non-white?
With the new English squad being announced just days ago, the number of Black players picked has dramatically increased from years ago. Out of the 30-man squad, 11 of the footballers are classed as ‘BAME’, a figure which would essentially make up a starting line-up.
This marks a dramatic difference from the past, with only six Black English players travelling to the 2014 World Cup. This difference is something to celebrate, with some Twitter users pointing out that ‘England wouldn’t even reach the qualifying stage’ without some of their most vital players who, coincidentally, are Black. Yet as more and more Black players dominate the pitch, some fanbases across the world are not as accepting as you would expect our generation to be.
Hence footballers beginning to ‘take the knee’, a movement popularised in 2016 by Colin Kaepernick, an American football player who knelt during the US National anthem before a game, in protest against police brutality. This was criticised by some and viewed as ‘disrespectful’ to his country. However, this movement has been replicated by football teams in England, with it now becoming common to ‘take the knee’ moments before the starting whistle.
This is not only effective in the English Squad, but also Premier League teams. The proportion of British Premier League players from Black, Asian and other ethnic minority backgrounds has doubled since the league began in 1992, with teams such as Liverpool and Arsenal having multiple players in their starting 11 from said backgrounds. However, in recent years, the increase in players from different cultures is having an adverse effect on the game, arguably igniting more racism than before.
Perhaps in future generations, one would look at Southgate’s team and not have to examine how many of his players are Black, but instead admire their talent on the pitch. This is echoed by former England striker Les Ferdinand, who, speaking of Black premier league players, said “I feel a sense of joy and pride that players are being recognised for their abilities rather than their colour at the moment.” He also praises the likes of “Cyrille Regis, John Barnes and Viv Anderson”, who “took a lot of stick and paved the way for the future”.
Whilst it is true that the Black English footballers of ‘92 faced a lot of criticism, some of the racist ideologies remain. With Southgate examining his squad ahead of next years rescheduled Euros, footballers will be hoping to get crowds back in, backing their national team to victory; lets hope the racism is left behind.
Image Credit: The Independent