Euro 2021: Why ‘home’ is never a collective experience in football

Euro 2021: Why ‘home’ is never a collective experience in football

By Juwairiyyah Wali

Juwairiyyah Wali is Programme Coordinator at Don’t Settle. She is a born and bred Brummie known for having pretentious film preferences. Passionate about all things art, heritage and activism.

‘It’s coming “home?”’.

A simple question, posed by co-founder of Instagram page The Black Beat, Kelvyn Quagraine, enveloping all the muddled connotations of a word that is often assumed to be a straightforward concept. For People of Colour living in the UK, the concept of “home” can be a tricky terrain to navigate. Our identities are consistently interrogated and at any given moment we’re expected to defend our Britishness when asked that dreaded question ‘But where are you really from?’.

Being a beloved sport with English roots, football itself is entrenched with patriotism, so when the Euros began and the number of England flags being strung up outside homes increased by every winning match, there was a struggle to shake off the discomfort that the triggering red cross with whiteness as its backdrop seldom fails to bring.

As England progressed, the chants grew louder and the word ‘home’ became more apparent; appearing on newspaper headlines, scrawled on placards in capital letters and yelled proudly by fans. National pride can feel at an all time high in the wake of England’s sporting success, however in this ‘home’ we speak of, 31.39% of young people have said they never feel proud of where they live (National Youth Trends, 2020).

Inevitably this statistic leads us to think about when the word ‘home’ in its collective context became even more fractured, and top players Marcus Rashford, Jaden Sancho, and Bukayo Sako became subject to racist abuse online after England’s loss in the Euros final. Players who supported the England men’s football team in progressing further than they had been in a generation, to then be subject of racist abuse down to human error, begs the question of whose home do they really mean?

As predicted, once again we can reflect back to the voices of young people surveyed in our Time and Time Again report, where the relevancy never ceases to continue. 54.1% of young People of Colour said British culture actively excludes and appropriates other cultures. Their voices rang true here.

So what hope does the future bring? Marcus Rashford’s mural in his hometown Manchester was defaced after England’s loss, but in less than 24 hours a barricade of support arrived, covering Rashford’s defaced mural with messages of kindness. The community came together using their voices to proclaim ‘Black Lives Matter’, painting a picture of hope and resilience. Furthermore, culture editor and writer for Galdem Kemi Alemoru- makes strides in their coverage of the topic to ensure the sporting achievements and  anti-racist efforts of the England team doesn’t go amiss amongst the narratives of racism. After all, players like Rashford have managed to engage support from spectators that often disassociate from the game, those put off by the toxic traits of the fandom and alienated by its inherent patriotism. 

For young people the future is blurred. When asked to describe what cities will look like in 20 years, they expressed polarised perceptions of the future, balancing a mix of optimistic adjectives such as ‘free’, ‘equal’ and ‘united’ with bleaker descriptions like ‘unequal’, ‘oppressive’ and ‘divided’ – this was reflected when asked what they wanted future leaders to be like.

This uncertainty speaks to the current social climate, where one precarious step forward can quickly backtrack into what feels like a million steps back. For now we sit uncomfortably in uncertainty, while actively making moves to drive forward towards a more equitable future through focused activism and shifting power.

To read the full Time and Time Again report – about how young People of Colour see representation in the UK, then click here.

To get exclusive access to National Youth Trends releases (before they go public) get clued up and sign up to The DL.

This article was written by Juwairiyyah Wali for Beatfreeks. It draws on data collected by National Youth Trends from 2000 young people across the UK. You can read more about their thoughts, feelings and innovations by clicking here, and having a mooch about.

Image by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona


To get exclusive access to National Youth Trends releases (before they go public) get clued up and sign up to The DL.

Download Report