The size of England's growing problem with racism came to light once again following its defeat against Italy in the finals of the Euro 2020. Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, three of the country's promising players of black heritage, all missed from the penalty spot last night, triggering a torrent of racial abuse.
All three players were viciously targeted by trolls and angry England fans, highlighting for many the problem of racism and the culture of denial amongst sections of British society including senior members of the Tory government. Their treatment was seen by many as a reminder as to why the England team "takes the knee" before matches in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
The decision by the England team to take the knee angered some England fans and politicians alike. When their anti-racism stance was booed by the English fans, Manager Gareth Southgate made a powerful appeal to the nation to get behind the players.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially failed to condemn those fans while Home Secretary Priti Patel was one of several Tory MPs to censure the anti-racism campaign dismissing it as "gesture politics."
Southgate has rushed to defend his players. "It's just not what we stand for," said the England manager, describing the racist abuse as "unforgivable". The 50-year-old praised the team as " a beacon of light" that had brought people together.
Johnson and the Football Association also joined in condemnation while the Metropolitan Police is investigating the abuse and said, "it will not be tolerated". The official Twitter account for the England men's and women's national teams said in a statement: "We're disgusted that some of our squad – who have given everything for the shirt this summer – have been subjected to discriminatory abuse online after tonight's game. We stand with our players."
It's not just trolling on social media that have racially abused the players. Rashford for instance, despite winning the hearts of so many Brits through a campaign to tackle child hunger in the UK, had a mural honouring the striker in his home city Manchester defaced with racist graffiti.
The growing unease over racism triggered following yesterday's defeat lead to a Tory MP being blasted for "sneering" at Rashford saying that he should have spent more time "perfecting his game" than "playing politics" by campaigning against child poverty.
There may be wider repercussions for England. The combination of racist abuse and riots in London prior to the match, during which 19 officers are said to have been injured when they "confronted volatile crowds", could dent England's chance of hosting the 2030 FIFA world cup.
The racist abuse of the three England players is a reflection of the surge in discrimination and racist hate crimes in wider society since the 2016 Brexit referendum. A survey by Opium shows that there has been a 71 per cent increase in the number of people from ethnic minorities that faced discrimination, up from 58 per cent.
A cause that's often cited for the sharp increase in racism along with Brexit is said to be the culture war gripping much of Europe and the UK in the aftermath of the refugee crises which saw hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and hunger from across the Middle East and elsewhere.
Parties from all ideological spectrums have failed to get a grip on the problem while some are said to have capitalised from the rise in nationalist fervour by appealing to groups in the fringes of society in order to secure electoral victory.