“It’s Sad That We Have To Have This Conversation In 2021” – Maro Itoje Reacts To “Appalling” Racist Abuse
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British and Irish Lions lock Maro Itoje has reacted to the “appalling” racist abuse aimed at some of England’s players last night following their Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.
The English footballers lost on penalties to Italy at Wembley on Sunday with Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka racially abused after the game after they all missed their spot-kick efforts.
Itoje said it’s sad that we’re having this conversation in 2021 and that it’s almost becoming a cliché at this stage that we have to demand that more be done to stamp out racism across the board.
“It’s appalling, to be honest, it’s appalling,” Itoje said when asked about the abuse received by the players.
“Quite frankly the behaviour of a fraction of the fans throughout the day wasn’t very good from what I was picking up over here in South Africa. From people storming the stadium to… the behaviour before the game wasn’t great and it only got worse after the game.
“I was speaking to one of my friends and I actually said that ‘if England lose this game, [the behaviour] is going to get worse’ and it’s a shame that a fraction of fans literally spoiled the occasion for everybody else.
“The large proportion of fans that went to Wembley, who bought their ticket, who are great football fans, did their piece. But they were ruined by a large amount of people who were racially abusing some of the black players who were there, the brave individuals who took those penalties.
“It’s just incredibly sad to hear, sad to see, it’s sad that we have to have this conversation in 2021. And this is a large amount of the reason why so much talk is done about racism in sport because these incidences happen on a semi-regular basis, which is not what anyone wants to see, it’s not what anyone wants to hear.
“It’s become cliché to say this but we need to do more. We need to do more to tackle it, we need to do more to get these types of people out of stadiums, we need to do more to tackle this type of football culture that ruins it for a large amount of people.
“The England football team inspired the nation, inspired people all across the globe, they inspired people in Nigeria singing “it’s coming home” – they inspired so many people.
“And for that to be tarnished by some of the behaviour, some of the abuse that we’ve seen, it’s very disappointing.”
Itoje sent a message to 19-year-old Saka after the game because he felt the youngster needed all the support he could get, and added that he knew what was coming the minute he missed his penalty.
“I’m an Arsenal fan as some of you may know. I’ve seen Saka’s rise to prominence, especially over the course of this season and he’s a phenomenal player,” Itoje told us.
“Watching him represent England, I know it will be pretty special for him, and pretty special for everyone who knows him closely.
“When he missed the penalty, and I saw his reaction after, I just felt so sad for him. He’s a young man. He’s 19 years old. He’s gonna play for England for many, many years to come.
God’s Child @BukayoSaka87 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾♥️
— Maro Itoje (@maroitoje) July 11, 2021
“I just think as sports fans, as football fans, as people, he’s the type of person that you need to support.
“Truly and honestly, and again I was speaking to one of my friends, as soon as he missed – I knew what was coming. I knew that there was going to be an outrage on social media.
“As athletes, it’s not nice, but you can take heat when it’s about your performance. But when it’s about things that are personal like race, things that are completely out of your control, I just think that that’s unacceptable.”