Many are consumed at the moment by the Management of the England Football Team instructing their players to ‘take the knee’ out of respect for the memory of George Floyd – a Blackman murdered by a White US police officer in the US – as a general statement of support for the anti-racist movement Black Lives Matter (BLM). As numerous White, working-class England supporters are poorly educated, read the right-wing press and gravitate toward racist attitudes and opinions, many have been vocally opposing England’s support for this anti-racist cause – booing loudly and disrespectfully when the English players kneel. This situation has been compounded of late by the current Home Secretary – Priti Patel – expressing her ‘Tory’ dislike of the BLM movement whilst describing the neo-Nazi ‘straight-armed’ salutes exhibited by a number of England fans as ‘being a matter of personal choice!’ Although an extraordinary statement to emerge from an Asian woman, this is not the first time the England Football Team has been involved in controversy off and on the field!
During 1917 there was an extraordinary outburst of liberalism in Britain that saw a Dutch Football Team comprised entirely of ‘women’ – photographed playing a game of ‘Football’ at Dartmouth in England! As if this wasn’t enough disruption for the era, in 1925, the England Amateur Team (which played all home fixtures against visiting foreign sides) took the field all dressed as Black and White Minstrels in support for an African man (one ‘Sammy Smith’) who had been ‘soundly beaten’ (according to The Times) by a British Colonial police officer for not getting out of the way of Europeans walking on the pavement. In a show of Solidarity by the young England players it was thought at the time that by dressing up as a Black person, most of these young men would be making a firm statement against British imperialism! However, half the crowd in attendance started to riot as they thought the Football Association had finally lost their minds and replaced all the White English players with Black Colonial usurpers! Calm was only restored when training staff were seen to run onto the pitch with wet flannels to wipe off some of the offending make up! Once the White faces were restored, the England Amateur Team gave the visiting Uruguayans a 5-1 thrashing! Later in the year, the England Professional Team (which was responsible for travelling abroad and playing all the ‘away’ games) would travel to Uruguay and repeat the feat! The bigoted reaction of the crowd meant that the England Team would not dabble in progressive politics for decades to come (although there was a minor glitch in 1936 when the British Olympic Football Squad gave Hitler a straight-armed salute)!