Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 7th July 2021

Like many people, the joy of England making the semi-finals for the first time in a quarter of a century was only slightly tarnished by how old it made me feel realising Euro 96 is now 25 years ago.

A lot has happened since then. 25 years ago, papers were questioning whether footballers were suitable role models for our kids, with pictures of Gazza in a dentist chair having tequila poured down his throat. Today, when England play they will be booed by alleged ‘supporters’, not because of anything they’ve done wrong, but because they refused to turn their backs on what they believe.

All lives matter, that has never has been a counter-argument to Black Lives Matter, it’s the whole point of the movement. The problem is in countries around the world the way authorities act towards black members of their communities doesn’t show a recognition that black lives do matter. A few minutes looking online for stats on police shootings in the US by ethnicity should answer any doubts about that.

I wonder if those shouting abuse at the side lines ever consider just how young these players are; Jude Bellingham, who came on against Ukraine, turned 18 just over a week ago. Yet, despite their age and income, we have a generation of footballers more interested in ensuring children have enough to eat over the school holidays than hedonistic self-indulgence.

There will always be those who claim principles have no place in sport, there always have been and history has never looked kindly on them. Speak to any South African and it was the ban on their participation in international sport which played more of a role in ending Apartheid than any economic sanction, had we listened to those voices then where would we be now? Even our greatest sporting movie, Chariots of Fire, is based on the runner Eric Liddell who refused to race on a Sunday due to his Christian faith.

Those who would give up their principles for a chance at glory deserve neither. I, for one, feel incredibly proud of our national team.

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