So that was the tournament that was Euro 2020. For me the best team in the tournament won it, which is generally as it should be, but for England they took them as far as they could do before, as it has done so many times before, it came down to a penalty shoot out to dictate their fate.
When Pickford saved early it looked like – as many predicted – that their name may have been on the trophy but it was not meant to be as Rashford, Sancho and finally Sako all missed penalties to send football back to Rome and not home as everyone had been talking about.
Heartbreak for England again and probably one that will hurt them more than any of the penalty exits of the past. This was a final, one they have waited 55 years for, and one that ended in such heart breaking fashion for them.
But we wake on the Monday morning, the night after the game, to find that England losing a penalty shoot out is not the only thing that didn’t change last night. The players who missed penalties were subjected to disgusting, cowardly and, quite simply, unacceptable abuse from a section of the population. I won’t call these people supporters because, quite frankly, they are anything but supporters of a game I want to be part of.
This has, and continues, to go on too long but we have people unwilling, or more likely unable, to stop it happening. This morning I have heard of suggestions to delete social media accounts but until such point that they have more stringent controls over creating an account I am not sure fully what that achieves. Social media is a tremendous platform to showcase a whole host of positive things but sadly, as we continue to see, it also showcases the worst kind of people that society has to offer.
This is not about people that missed a penalty this is about ingrained belief that people think this kind of ‘chat’ has a place in society and that social media gives them ‘freedom of speech’ rights (and we will have all seen people on all forms of social media who believe that to be true) to say what they want and to who they want.
Action needs to be quick but action also needs to be effective. These people can be traced and these people should be treated in exactly the same way as they would should they have uttered the words to the same individual in public (although clearly they never would as these people are cowards)
As with many things it only takes a few high profile cases to make people think twice and I would say that immediately would kill more than two thirds of this abuse on social media at least. It does that because people all of a sudden think twice. It won’t eradicate it completely because, for some people, this is engrained in their beliefs (you only have to ask some people why they voted Brexit for example) and will not go completely away. That is where the game can eradicate them away from us. No social media accounts, no public platforms to spout their hate and no ability to attend football matches. Lifetime bans. End of.
“We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team,” said the FA in a statement.
“We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible.
“We will continue to do everything we can to stamp discrimination out of the game, but we implore government to act quickly and bring in the appropriate legislation so this abuse has real life consequences.
“Social media companies need to step up and take accountability and action to ban abusers from their platforms, gather evidence that can lead to prosecution and support making their platforms free from this type of abhorrent abuse.”
So, at the end of a tournament that bought so much joy in so many places, we have the same problem still deep rooted in some of the people who claim to support it. And if Euro 2020 is to have a lasting legacy then let it be the final catalyst that bought to an end this sickening abuse of people just doing their job. We await to see what happens next.