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Men’s football This is an England I can support

PHILOSOPHY Football have a T-shirt reminding people that England’s only success at a major tournament, the World Cup win in 1966, was won under a Labour government.

Should you be reading this column this morning and England defeated Italy last night, then England’s success no longer happens under a Labour government — it also happens under the power of the Tories. 

However, keen observers — and Morning Star editor Ben Chacko is one is one of them — will remind people that both of England’s success, be it the World Cup and the European Championships, happened outside of the European Union. 

So what is it? Are England successful down the left, on the right or just outside of the box that is Europe?

It will be quite funny that literally years after leaving the EU, England come back and win the tournament basically made up of the “super-powered” nations of the EU.

But this column isn’t about that, it’s about something else. 

Growing up, I didn’t really support England. It had nothing to do with the players on the pitch, but more the fans off it. It’s odd that a team’s success or fans wanting teams to win can make others feel alienated or that they are not a part of it. 

We’ve all seen the images of England supporters going away on “tour” and smashing up cities, bars, restaurants — it would make me feel like I’m not a part of this, that this wasn’t an England team that I wanted to support. 

It wasn’t a nation that I wanted to get behind. 

And it isn’t just me. Ethnic minority England fans across the country have all come together and said that this is an England team that, for the first time in their lives, they feel that they can support.

Previously the England flag was a symbol of fear, a symbol of the far right, a symbol of the EDL, a symbol of racist hooligans. 

Now for the first time in their lives, they can fly the flag proudly and say that this represents them, that this is who they are. 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still been some negative moments in this tournament.

The build-up to the Germany game was focused more around World War II and people chanting “10 German Bombers,” as opposed to what the players were doing on the pitch. 

The media played a part in this, bringing up “nostalgic” wars — not that there are many people left who can remember, say, the ’20s or the early ’40s vividly.

Hopefully the victory in the Round of 16 can put to bed any talk of a war which the majority of the country didn’t see and that victories of the past month have banished a lot of the demons of the past. 

It wouldn’t have been football coming home with victory last night, it would have been disillusioned fans like myself being made to feel welcome by the country they grew up in for the first time in their life.

On a subconscious level, it was a Three Lions side which I couldn’t see myself in. England teams between 1990 and — let’s be honest — 2006, weren’t really diverse. 

Yes, you had your John Barnes, Paul Ince, Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand etc, but for ethnic minorities up and down the country, there was something lacking. It didn’t reflect what England was becoming.

The team that took to the pitch at Wembley last night were different. This England team is one that ethnic minorities like myself can get behind. 

But it is also one which will be used by opportunistic right-wing politicians — the ones who said that they couldn’t support this England team because they took a knee against racism, a team that stood up for racial equality.

A Prime Minister who said that he didn’t believe in gesture politics but is happy to stand outside No 10 with his thumbs up and waving an England flag. 

This is an England team that the right will use to say that they embrace a diverse country but behind the scenes will continue to introduce policies that hinder any opportunity for the next Raheem Sterling to find his way into England from another country. 

Those who fight against injustice will not allow Johnson to brush under the carpet his clashes with Marcus Rashford 12 months ago, when this Tory government was happy to take food out of starving kids’ mouths. 

And if it wasn’t for England international Rashford, who fought the government every step of the way, things would have been so different at the start of the pandemic.

So, while we celebrate and bask in the glory of a successful England team both on and off the pitch, there are creatures on the right who are waiting to be alongside them. 

And it’s so important that, should England be invited to No 10 Downing Street for tea and cake with PM Johnson, they use the “opportunity” to question his policies and treat it like an impromptu PMQs.

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