Southgate sees brighter future from adversity after England’s Euros final defeat

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Gareth Southgate believes the ugly aftermath of England’s Euro 2020 final defeat showed the country at its worst but believes a brighter future can be moulded from the adversity.

England players Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were subjected to considerable racist abuse online after missing penalties in the shoot-out loss to Italy at Wembley in July.

The occasion was also marred by violence and disorder in and around the stadium as well as elsewhere in London and other towns throughout England.

England's (left to right) Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka were racially abused after their penalty misses
England’s (left to right) Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka were racially abused after their penalty misses (Nick Potts/PA)

Speaking at the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention, Southgate said: “I had obviously lived, personally, through missing a penalty in a major tournament so I knew that element. It never crossed my mind that the three boys that missed were black or mixed heritage, never.

“But, very quickly, when I got back to the dressing room, our media comms team were explaining this scenario. Players were talking to their families about what had happened outside and inside the stadium.

“So, from this incredible experience, this incredible month, where it felt like we brought people together, at the moment where it all went wrong, we’re getting players who have given so much being abused and our families going through an experience that was rotten.

“So we were seeing the very worst, if you like, about our country, having been so close to a moment where none of that would probably have happened.

“That was hugely disappointing. There is not achieving what we wanted to achieve as a team, but to see our country in that light, under the microscope – because the rest of the world are looking at us at those moments – it just said to me we’ve got a lot of work to do.

“However far we’ve progressed, that one moment showed us how much there is to do.

“But I would also say the counter-reaction to (what happened to) the three boys, and the wave of support, was also really heartening because I think that was genuine and it was a little bit like when we were taking the knee and getting booed by certain sections.

“The tidal wave and direction of travel is in the opposite direction. And it’s just a reminder that sometimes you’ve got to live through that pain to be able to make a difference.”

Southgate is heartened by how relatable his side is
Southgate is heartened by how relatable his side is (Martin Rickett/PA)

Southgate’s side drew praise for the way they engaged with various communities in the country throughout the tournament in the summer.

The manager is proud of the role the players have played in this and feels it has been a step forward.

He said: “With the national team, there’s more at stake than just the football and we’re recognising that and the most heartening thing for me has been that the people that have come up to me, celebrating their feeling of connection to the team, have been Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Afro-Caribbean.

“The changing in that over the last 18 months has been remarkable and I didn’t realise how disconnected we were from those communities in particular.

“So that’s what this group of players have done. I think they have been relatable.”

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