By: Sattwik Biswal
AHEAD of England’s Euro 2020 semifinal clash against Denmark on Wednesday (7), a new campaign, #EnglandTogether, is calling on fans to show their support for the team and also back the idea for an inclusive England that is shared by people of all backgrounds.
Supporters from faith, diversity and cohesion organisations across England, are asking people to show their support for the Three Lions and an inclusive England by tweeting #ItsComingHome #EnglandTogether with a picture of what an inclusive England means to them. It could be a picture of themselves or their friends and family supporting the team; it could also just be a picture of the England team or the Three Lions badge.
A recent research from the identity and integration thinktank British Future has found that two-thirds of white and ethnic minority citizens in England agree that the England football team is a symbol of England that ‘belongs to people of every race and ethnic background in England today’ (white 66 per cent, ethnic minority 65 per cent).
Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, said: “It matters that we have something to bring England together. There are plenty of things we can disagree about in our society. So finding things we share is important: it helps to foster a shared sense of identity, bridges divides and pushes back against prejudice.
“#EnglandTogether celebrates this great moment, which is shared by all of us in England today. Whether you’re a lifelong football fan or just enjoying the occasion; and whether your family stretches back generations or is new to these shores.
“If Gareth Southgate’s team makes it to the final on Sunday it will be England’s biggest party in 55 years – and we want everyone to feel invited.”
Imam Qari Asim, chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, said: “Our football team at Euro 2020, with its players from diverse backgrounds, has a power to connect with people across England.
“It will be very quiet at mosques for sunset prayers on Wednesday night – young muslims will all be glued to their TV screens, backing the national team.
“This Wednesday it won’t matter what colour your skin is, or what your faith or belief is, or which country your mum and dad came from. All that will matter is whether we can score more goals than Denmark.
“Football is coming home, and it is a home that we all share.”
England’s successful run at Euro 2020 has done wonders by getting the nation together while backing the Three Lions.
“Come Wednesday evening, the whole of the country’s prayers will be with the England team, and we’re just a few goals away from making those 55 years of hurt finally disappear,” Jasvir Singh of City Sikhs said.
He added: “This is also the perfect opportunity for us to reflect on how much we have grown as a nation since 1966. We can’t continue living in our past glories, no matter what we think those might be. We need to be proud of our Englishness and look to the future with hope and faith.
“So whether you’re wearing a turban, a kippah, a hijab or a baseball cap, it’s time for us to come together as one nation united by the Three Lions.”
‘Model for unity’
Windrush campaigner Patrick Vernon OBE wants England to create history and said: “Football is coming home – a home built on a long history of migration and contribution by people of all creeds and colours. From those who came on the Windrush having served in the Second World War, to the young men banging goals in for us this summer. Let’s hope Gareth Southgate’s team adds a new chapter to England’s history tonight.”
For Rashidat Hassan, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, the England football team is a ‘model of unity’.
“Many of us will be cheering on our England team not only for the remarkable success they have achieved for our country, but also because of their principled stance against racism. The talented team and their forthright manager have shown leadership both on and off the pitch.
“In our England team we see in ourselves the best of our society. A reflection of our diverse communities and a model for unity. We all owe the England football team some gratitude for bringing the country together during difficult times. We pray the chorus comes true: football’s coming home,” he said.
Gurvinder Sandher, CEO of Kent Equality Cohesion Council, said: “Fingers crossed we can make it to the final after so many years of hurt.
“Growing up as an England fan it was confusing at times, seeing our Black players being booed in the early 1980’s. Now the country is behind the team. When England do well, the whole country comes together and it is so positive to see.
“I watched the Ukraine game in the pub and when England scored everyone was up celebrating, regardless of background or faith. Football can bring people together like no other sport in England. Come on England!”
The #EnglandTogether campaign is supported by Eastern Eye, the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board; City Sikhs; JW3; the Muslim Council of Britain; the TUC; the Jo Cox Foundation; British Future; Centre for English Identity and Politics (University of Southampton); Windrush campaigner Patrick Vernon OBE; Cohesion Plus (Kent); More In Common; Belong – the cohesion and integration network; New Horizons in British Islam; Bright Blue; English Labour Network; and Spirit of 2012.