Hannah Kumari has been a fan of English football since she was a child, but she never thought about flying the English flag. Until now.
For the first time since winning the World Cup in 1966, England’s men’s football has entered the 2020 European Cup final. Millions of fans are ecstatic, and Kumari is one of them.
But like many British people of color, she has a contradictory relationship with British symbols.
However, thanks to the victory of this young, multi-ethnic team in the European Championship, it has become easier to embrace them.
After beating Denmark 2-1 in the semifinals, England will face Italy in the final at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday.
“When I woke up this morning, I thought,’I want to buy a St. George’s flag and hang it out of the window on Sunday,'” said Kumari, who was born and raised in England with an Indian mother and a Scots father. The day after the Denmark game.
“I have never owned an England jersey. Some things have definitely changed. I think that team almost allowed me to wear an England jersey.”
British Muslim students from Islamic Theological Seminary watch #ENG While playing @HKane Score.this is #eng We are the part of some people who make us believe in the impossible, it is impossible, and racists can do it. Sasnan @mrjamesob You will be very grateful. pic.twitter.com/cKr4SJ0E5Y
— Hasan Patel (@Hasanpatel) July 7, 2021
The past few years have been difficult for England and the rest of the UK.
Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union-this decision was partly due to its strong opposition to immigration-has made the country tense and divided.
During the coronavirus pandemic, more than 128,000 people died in the UK, which is the country with the highest number of deaths in Western Europe.
But the euro provides much-needed excitement and fun. Millions of teams tired of blockades and bad news are supporting a team whose members oppose racism, kneel before the game, support LGBTQ pride, oppose poverty, and, most importantly, win the game.
For decades, supporting England has been synonymous with hopelessness.
The lyrics of the country’s most popular football song “Three Lions” (originally released in 1996) evokes England’s 1966 victory and the prolonged drought that followed: “Thirty years of pain never stopped me dream.”
Those 30 years have become 55 years, but England is dreaming again.
The hopes of this country rest on a team that is very different from the All-White team in 1966.
A poster produced by the Immigration Museum shows what the England team would look like without a player whose parents or grandparents were born abroad: only 3 of the 11 starters are left.
The missing stars include captain Harry Kane, whose father is Irish; Marcus Rashford, whose mother is from St. Kitts; Raheem Sterling, born in Jamaica; and Byuako Saka, a Londoner with Nigerian parents.
Seven #United KingdomOf the starting XI against #Denmark inside #Euro2020 The parents or grandparents of the semifinals were born overseas.If you track almost all #三狮 When the team comes back, you will find the story of the migration https://t.co/nJdHBrKaaP #FootballMovesPeople #恩登 pic.twitter.com/hiwDDJGsHi
-Migration Museum (@MigrationUK) July 7, 2021
The team is known for social responsibility rather than wild off-site antics. This is reflected in the 23-year-old Rashford’s campaign against child poverty, which persuaded the government to restore free lunches to thousands of poor children.
Last week, 27-year-old Kane wore a rainbow armband to support LGBTQ pride in the England-Germany match.
Players may be young multimillionaires, but they celebrate their local and international roots.
Rashford’s childhood in the working-class community of Manchester inspired his anti-poverty work; Calvin Phillips was the proud son of the northern city of Leeds; Sterling called himself “Bren” after the London borough where he grew up. Special boy”.
For some people, their success helps make English a source of pride rather than embarrassment.
Sunder Katwala, head of the UK’s Future of Equality Think Tank, said: “A huge generational shift has taken place, towards a civic and inclusive British identity that transcends racial and religious foundations.”
“Most immigrants to the UK do not make sure that they are British, but what is interesting is that their children do.”
Katwala stated that sports teams and tournaments will not promote social change, but rather “recognize the changes that have taken place in society”.
“When I was a teenager, we linked football with all the negative aspects of British identity: violence, racism, hooliganism,” Katwara said.
He said that the modern, multicultural England team is part of the “cultural shift”, which has “changed the public conversation about what English is.”
Not everyone thinks that the national football team represents the best in England.
Some conservative commentators mocked the players’ “waking up” disturbingly.
The team members were booed by some fans when they kneeled against racism before the game.
Home Secretary Priti Patel criticized kneeling, calling it “gestural politics” and refused to condemn the booing.
The victory quelled most of the criticism at least temporarily.
Politicians have joined the trend in England. Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson often criticizes protests against racism and the history of the British Empire. He participated in Wednesday’s game and wore an English jersey over his formal shirt.
If England wins the final on Sunday, he will face pressure to announce a national holiday.
“Southgate Leadership Academy”
Some people compare Britain’s political leaders with the low-key national team coach Gareth Southgate, who has cultivated his young players into England’s most cohesive team in years.
Opposition Labour Party MP Thangam Debbonaire urged Johnson to study at the “Gareth Southgate Leadership Academy”.
“The British people will ask themselves who they want to lead. Do they want someone who works hard and focuses persistently on embodying British values, or do they want the current Prime Minister?” Debbonaire said in the House of Commons.
Southgate addressed the team’s critics in an open letter at the beginning of the game, stating that his players would not “stick to football” and remain silent on social issues.
“I have a responsibility to use my voice for the wider community, and the players do the same,” he wrote.
“I know very well that we are moving towards a more tolerant and understanding society, and I know our lads will become an important part of it.”