By Pooja Shrivastava
LONDON mayor Sadiq Khan has called on British fans to make a statement at this year’s UEFA EURO that “there is no room for racism anywhere – not in the stands, not on social media, not on the football pitch and not on our streets”.
“Sadly, we’ve seen far too many appalling incidents of racism recently. It breaks my heart to see young English footballers on the receiving end of this vile abuse,” the mayor wrote in the Mirror on Tuesday (8).
Slamming English fans who booed their own team for taking the knee on Sunday (6) during warm-up games against Romania and Austria, the mayor noted it was disappointing to watch, but said, “it’s been heartening to see the majority of fans drown out these misguided protests with cheers”.
“That is free speech in action and it fills me with hope – not just about the strong anti-racism message we can send at the EUROs, but the future of our country,” Khan said, adding he will continue to back players taking the knee before games since it is “nothing more than a simple, yet powerful, call for an end to racism and racial injustice”.
Recalling his childhood in south London, the mayor revealed he used to be a Chelsea fan as a kid, but that changed after a few episodes where he experienced racism.
“I’m often asked why I support Liverpool given I’m a Londoner. The truth is I went to games at my local clubs, Chelsea and Wimbledon as a kid, but when I visited their grounds I was racially abused and my elder brothers were even chased away by the National Front.”
“That led me to support a team I got to know from the safety of my front room, on TV, from the other end of the country.”
The mayor added that though “we have come a long way since those horrible days when racism was rife on the terraces, we still have so much further to go”.
The UEFA EURO will kick off this Friday (11), a year later than planned; England is set to take on Croatia at Wembley on Sunday (13).