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3 Sep, 2021 14:59

Opportunists like Boris Johnson should look closer to home before condeming Hungary in popularity points contest over racism

Opportunists like Boris Johnson should look closer to home before condeming Hungary in popularity points contest over racism

In their first match since losing the Euro 2020 final, players from the England national football team were again racially abused – this time in Hungary. Yet attacking the hosts on the night and their fans is a bit rich.

Picking up the pieces from their penalty shootout heartbreak at Wembley in mid-July – when Italy were handed their first continental championship since 1968 – the Three Lions roared to a 4-0 win against their eastern European opponents after being booed for taking the knee before the opening whistle. 

Unfortunately, the match appears to have been marred by racist incidents too, with Raheem Sterling said to have been frequently targeted and Jude Bellingham reportedly receiving "sporadic monkey chants from various areas of the crowd".

Manchester United's Harry Maguire revealed he was "disappointed", and his center-back partner in Manchester City John Stones remarked that it was "so sad".

Also on rt.com Southgate admits UK has ‘similar’ racism issue to Hungary after England stars are pelted & booed for kneeling during chaotic match

Never one to pass up an opportunity to score popularity points, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took to Twitter this morning to say: "It is completely unacceptable that England players were racially abused in Hungary last night."

"I urge FIFA to take strong action against those responsible to ensure that this kind of disgraceful behavior is eradicated from the game for good."

And naturally, he was once more called out for his hypocrisy.

"Coming from you, that’s a big case of the pot calling the kettle black," remarked one social media user, as another sarcastically quipped: "Absolutely agree. Only our PM is allowed to call our players picaninnies with sunshine melon smiles" – a reference to a notorious article that Johnson once wrote.

After all, this is a leader who refused to condemn the boo boys who opposed what the players clearly feel is an anti-racist gesture in one of his country's last warm-up friendlies before their heroic run to the grande finale.

Johnson then acted shocked and disgusted when a trio of black players – Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka – were abused online for missing their spot kicks against the Azzurri.

Home Secretary Priti Patel originally took an identical line on taking the knee, an act which is linked to the Black Lives Matter movement that is considered "Marxist" by some.

The Conservative was then seen regularly posing with and donning the Three Lions shirt, despite dividing players and fans by claiming to be against what she called "gesture politics".

Patel, too, slammed the racists after the final, but was called out by squad member Tyrone Mings for her hypocrisy.

"You don't get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labeling our anti-racism message as 'Gesture Politics' and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we're campaigning against, happens," the Aston Villa star said.

Still, people have short memories – or, at least, politicians think they do when they spot an opening. The UK tabloid press, meanwhile, has derided the Hungarians while regularly running smear campaign pieces on Sterling for buying his mother a house or a nice car. Prime minister and press should look closer to home before casting aspersions.

In another valiant post-match press conference, England boss Gareth Southgate said as much when he admitted that there are significant problems with racism in English football, too.

Making a point not to blast all of the Hungarian fans, he stressed that there was a "balance in the crowd as well".

"At home, as we know, not everybody causes problems and tonight, our national anthem was really respected remarkably well," he highlighted.

"So it is not fair to criticize all the Hungarian fans. A lot of them were very generous and behaved themselves extremely well."

"That's a very similar situation to the one we find at home I think," Southgate went on, calling those who booed the knee and were accused of racially abusing England in Budapest, as well as the culprits who jeered on English soil, "dinosaurs".

"They recognize that the world is changing and although some people are stuck in their ways of thinking and their prejudices, they are going to be the dinosaurs in the end because the world is modernizing."

Southgate also made the salient point that Hungary "isn't anywhere near as diverse in its population as our country is", and vowed to continue to set "the right example for young people in our country".

Perhaps the UK's decision makers should too. They could start by looking at ways of eradicating the problem in the domestic game and in wider British society, where it really should not be an issue anymore in a country with a melting pot populous.

By Tom Sanderson

Also on rt.com ‘It starts at the top’: England trio racially abused after missing penalties in Euro 2020 defeat – and some blame PM Boris Johnson