The fish rots from the head

Boris Johnson Photo by Alexandros Michailidis

First of all, I must apologise for yet another article about football. I don’t even like it that much. I certainly don’t know anything about the actual game from a technical point of view. But, like it or not, football has come to be something of a focal point for our nation’s values and outlook and yet another line that divides us.

So, yes, my heart sank when Rashford, the feeder of the nation’s starving children, hit the post taking a penalty. I felt a deep sense of despair as Gianluigi Donnarumma saved the strikes from Sancho and Saka – not because these misses meant England lost, no; but because it was sadly inevitable that these three fine young men (who have done more for kids and communities than this corrupt government ever has or will) would have to endure a tsunami of abuse because they had failed and because they are black. Mainly because they are black.

Before the match, I am sure many of us feared Johnson would cash in on the victory, ascribing it to his leadership, to our glorious sovereignty ‘regained’ by Brexit. Triumph against the evil Europeans! England lions back at the top of the food chain! He would conveniently forget that he had refused to condemn so-called fans booing the team as they took the knee. He would forget the string of racist slurs and insults that have poured from his mouth and pen, currying favour with racists and xenophobes, establishing his credentials as the heir to UKIP and the BNP. His hypocrisy would stick in our craws as it went unchallenged by the right wing media. The licence to parade government’s faux inclusiveness would, once again, put off the hour when we faced up to the fact that we are an increasingly racist country with an empowered racist element emboldened by Brexit, Johnson, Patel and the rest.

How very sad that any of us should have felt torn as to the best outcome for the country. Southgate and his team were clearly deserving of a win based on the guts, determination and sheer decency they’d shown in the tournament thus far. And, as Sadie Parker wrote, Southgate embodied the best of us. At a time when virtue goes unrewarded and vice has a field day, how we longed for his virtue and the young team’s positive, inclusive ethos on and off the pitch to get the recognition it deserved.

Instead, we saw the ugliest side of humanity indulging itself, unfettered by any sense of shame, licensed to abuse by those in power, mercenary soldiers in the war on woke…If any of you have seen any of the comments you will know just how sickeningly disgusting they are. I will not reproduce or quote them.

Johnson has today condemned the vile abuse to which the three young players have been subjected. Too late. Meaningless words from the man who is blown by the winds of populism. Southgate follows a do-as- you-would-be-done-by creed. Johnson has got away with so much that he has no fear of consequence. He’s top of the heap. He does as he pleases and no-one can ‘do’ anything to him, it seems. Truth is whatever he decides it to be. Talk about living in the moment! This goldfish memory method leaves his conscience spotless…if he has a conscience at all.

We wrote a piece inspired by Gary Nevile’s summation of Southgate’s leadership style and the contrast with the woeful Johnson. We turn to him once again for the best analysis of the situation. Please watch the entire clip. It’s absolutely on point.

“It starts at the top.” The fish rots from the head. Johnson has surrounded himself with MPs who have sworn fealty to him…not the country…him. And this is how they behave:

Privilege is invisible to those that have it, which is one reason why scorn has been poured on the taking of the knee. The ugly legacy of last night’s game proves just how necessary the demonstration of opposition to racism is. Don’t let Johnson kid us that he’d join in.

The fish rots from the head…

You might also like to read this by Mo Kalanjal in our sister publication, Sussex Bylines.