Camberwell man Jadon Sancho was one of three England players who suffered “unforgivable” racial abuse after missing a penalty in the Euro 2020 final shootout.
Sancho, 21, was born in Camberwell to Trinidadian parents but moved to nearby Kennington at a young age. He played football with friends in Kennington Park, honing his close control skills from an early age before joining Watford’s academy as a seven-year-old.
Sancho was later signed by Manchester City, becoming one of the brightest stars in its youth setup before moving to German side Borussia Dortmund aged just seventeen, in what was then considered a controversial transfer away from one of England’s top clubs. He has since become a huge star and has played for England more than twenty times already.
The wide forward only made three appearances at Euro 2020, two of them as substitutes. His last came in the final minute of extra time against Italy, when manager Gareth Southgate knew the game would be decided by a penalty shootout.
Sancho missed England’s fourth penalty, leaving the score at 3-2. Marcus Rashford had already missed and Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma’s save of Bukayo Saka’s strike confirmed England’s defeat.
Sancho, Rashford and Saka were all subjected to racist abuse after their misses, repeating a sadly predictable cycle for black players on social media in recent years.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Priti Patel, England manager Gareth Southgate and the Football Association all came out strongly to condemn the abuse, which Southgate labelled “unforgivable”. The Met Police said it was investigating.
Southwark’s politicians also threw their support behind the trio. Helen Hayes said comments made by Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke that Rashford “should have spent more time perfecting his game than playing politics’, were ‘disgraceful’.
Marcus Rashford used the platform his huge talent affords him to deliver transformative change for our country’s most vulnerable children. He has more compassion, ethics & leadership in his little finger than this disgraceful Tory MP. Nothing but pride for you @MarcusRashford https://t.co/1h9BA9bmRx
— Helen Hayes ?? (@helenhayes_) July 12, 2021
Elphicke had been referencing Rashford’s school means campaign to feed children during the holidays, which had forced a government U-turn. The Tory MP later apologised for her ‘rash reaction’.
The Dulwich and West Norwood MP said: “Marcus Rashford used the platform his huge talent affords him to deliver transformative change for our country’s most vulnerable children.
“He has more compassion, ethics and leadership in his little finger than this disgraceful Tory MP. Nothing but pride for you.”
She added: “There is no place for racism in football. “The hate on social media demonstrates why our brilliant England team are absolutely right and brave to take a stand against racism at the start of each game and why they need our solidarity now.”
Bermondsey and Old Southwark’s MP, Neil Coyle, joined the debate over Patel’s comments that she was ‘disgusted’ with the racist abuse levelled at the players.
He retweeted a comment from central defender Tyrone Mings arguing “you don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘gesture politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens.”
Coyle simply added his own take: “There is only one side of heroes in this argument.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said there must be ‘zero tolerance’ of racist abuse in football and anywhere else, and that “the abhorrent racism we’ve seen following the Euros final illustrates perfectly why England’s players continue to take the knee.”
He has called on social media companies to take action and for those responsible to face the full force of the law.
At the time of writing, more than 850,000 people had signed a petition calling for lifetime football match bans for racists.
Set up by Shaista, Amna, Huda, known as ‘the three hijabis’, the petition said: “As multi-racial football fans, we finally feel represented by this anti-racist and inclusive England team.
“We could not be more proud or inspired by our magnificent team and by their talent, bravery, leadership and love for all.
“Gareth Southgate’s England team plays for all of us. Their vision is an inclusive vision and this matters more than ever – it’s why we feel proud of this team and why they’re so cherished and loved by many of us.
“There should be no room for racists and bigotry in football or society.
“We are calling for the Football Association and the government to work together now to ban all those who have carried out racist abuse, online or offline, from all football matches in England for life. Our England team stood up for all of us – now we must stand up for them.”
Despite the setback and the awful abuse he has suffered, Sancho should have the last laugh and has a bright future ahead for club and country. He is in the final stages of a move to Manchester United for a reported £73m, with the Old Trafford club set to announce his arrival later this week.