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Fans unite to ‘take knee’ at Emirates after Euros abuse

Supporters from rival clubs show solidarity with England players

23 July, 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Football fans from several clubs gathered at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday to show their support for an anti-racism protest

CROWDS gathered outside Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on Saturday in a show of solidarity with the England footballers who faced racist abuse after the recent European Championship.

Fans of rival club teams united to send out a message of support to Bukayo Saka, the 19-year-old Gunners forward, and his teammates Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, who faced online hate after missing penalties in the Euros final against Italy.

In pre-tournament friendlies, the national side had been heckled by some supporters for “taking the knee” before matches – a decision made by the whole squad as their own stand against prejudice.

Dean Ryan, from the Stand Up to Racism group who organised the protest, said: “As Arsenal supporters everyone loves Bukayo Saka, but I have to say, when I look around the crowd today I can see a few different football shirts.

“I see Man United supporters. I see Tottenham supporters. We are here today as football fans and we are here as anti-racists. We are here to show solidarity to all people affected by racism. That’s why we say the slogan: ‘Black Lives Matter’.”

Passing cars beeped horns, while the crowd called for Mr Rashford – who has helped lead a food poverty campaign to ensure schoolchildren do not go hungry during the coronavirus pandemic – to be made prime minister.

Andy Strouthous, a Gunners season ticket holder and a member of the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association, read out a statement from Mohammed Kozbar, the chairman of the Finsbury Park mosque.

“The racist abuse we have seen towards our young brave players was absolutely disgusting and an alarm to all of us,” it said. “Racism must have no place in our society.

“It is a disease which should be tackled by all of us. The appalling racist abuse directed at Saka, Rashford and Sancho points towards a serious problem that social media companies cannot ignore any longer and must deal with as a priority.”

Mr Kozbar added: “Racism in all its forms must be totally eradicated from our society. No one should get away with it, from our top politicians to football hooligans. No one should endure immunity anymore from this vile behaviour.”

Islington’s sole Green councillor Caroline Russell, who also took part in the protest, said: “I am here because I am so proud of every single member of the England squad for the leadership they have shown in standing up to racism in the football stands, in the street and, disgracefully, in government.”

She added: “I promise to challenge the police on disproportionality in arrests under stop-and-search and under any other kinds of arrests. I stand here today because black lives matter and these lads have done us so proud. I cannot believe such young people have shown such leadership, and that has been recognised so very widely.”

Last week, politicians, trade unions and organisations came together for the Tribune’s “North London United” issue with a clear message that the racists will not be allowed to ruin the sport – or anybody else’s lives.

Mr Saka broke his si­lence on the abuse over the weekend when he called for social media companies to do more (see below).

Saka: ‘I knew the hate I’d receive… but I will not let it break me’

Arsenal footballer Bukayo Saka

Bukayo Saka’s public statement following racist abuse after Euros final:

I HAVE stayed away from social media for a few days to spend time with my family and reflect on the last few weeks.

This message won’t do it justice how grateful I am for all the love that I have received, and I feel that I need to thank everyone who has supported me.

It was an honour to be part of an England squad that leads by example, they are brothers for life and I’m grateful for everything that I have learnt from every one of the players and staff who worked so hard. To help that team reach our first final in 55 years, seeing my family in the crowd, knowing what they’ve given up to help me get there, that meant everything to me.

There are no words to tell you how disappointed I was with the result and my penalty.

I really believed we would win this for you. I’m sorry that we couldn’t bring it home for you this year, but I promise you that we will give everything we’ve got to make sure this generation knows how it feels to win.

My reaction post match said it all, I was hurting so much and I felt like I’d let you all and my England family down, but I can promise you this: I will not let that moment or the negativity that I’ve received this week break me.

For those who have campaigned on my behalf and sent me heartfelt letters, wished me and my family well – I’m so thankful.

This is what football should be about: passion. People of all races, genders, religions and backgrounds coming together with one shared joy of the rollercoaster of football.

To the social media platforms – Instagram, Twitter and Facebook – I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that me, Marcus [Rashford] and Jadon [Sancho] have received this week.

I knew instantly the kind of hate that I was about to receive and that is a sad reality that your powerful platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.

There is no place for racism or hate of any kind in football or in any area of society, and to the majority of people coming together to call out the people sending these messages, by taking action and reporting these comments to the police and by driving out the hate by being kind to one another, we will win.

Love always wins.

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