'It’s been difficult at times to be a football fan and a person of colour'

MPs Dawn Butler and Tulip Siddiq at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley between England and Italy

MPs Dawn Butler and Tulip Siddiq at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley - Credit: Tulip Siddiq

Last week, I went to cheer England on at the final of the Euros with my parliamentary colleague and neighbour Dawn Butler.

As we walked from Stonebridge to Wembley, the anticipation in the air was palpable.

This feeling was made more poignant by the fact that we were in the borough of Brent because, of course, this was our national hero Raheem Sterling’s backyard.

We were proud to be associated with our #BoyFromBrent and, judging by the excited young Black men we saw on the streets wearing football tops with Sterling on the back, we weren’t the only ones.

It was a historic achievement to make it to the final and our boys did us proud. However, within seconds of the match ending, social media was flooded with racist comments about our black players.

Tulip Siddiq says the government has let children down during Lockdown

MP Tulip Siddiq condemns the antisemitic events on Finchley Road last Sunday - Credit: PA/Lauren Hurley

Dawn and I both winced when the first wave of comments surfaced on our Twitter feeds. As women of BAME origin, it was particularly poignant to see how the players of colour were treated differently to their white counterparts. On a very different scale, it reminded us of how much more abuse we receive as MPs of colour compared to our white colleagues.

As the night went on, the racist abuse swelled in numbers. Gareth Southgate to his credit defended his players. Our white players stood shoulder to shoulder with their Black teammates and said the abuse was unacceptable.

But it made me examine the society we live in. What is it that enabled people to express such hatred and abuse so openly? Are we as a country still suffering from the fallout of the divisive Brexit referendum? Or do people with bigoted views feel enabled by having a prime minister who has never apologised for racist comments and refused to condemn the booing of the England football team for standing against racial injustice by taking the knee?

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In the last few weeks, it’s been difficult at times to be a football fan and a person of colour. But I hope for the sake of the young Black men I saw on my way to Wembley stadium and for the sake of our society, that the government takes action against online hate and bans racists from football matches now.

Tulip Siddiq (Lab) is MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.

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